Photo courtesy of James Butler via Flickr

Photo courtesy of James Butler via Flickr

The Vail Symposium, a great civic organization we have here in Eagle County dedicated to facilitating key public policy discussions, had recently scheduled a tremendous event on education to discuss the role of unions.

The event was to have featured Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and Hannah Skandera, state education Chief in New Mexico, to square off in a sort of edu-celebrity cage match on unions.

Because of the nature of our resort community, it is not uncommon for our valley to get very talented speakers, musicians, and artists to visit.  Still, we were excited about this conversation because of it’s focus on education policy and that it would have allowed our community to engage with two key national figures in Weingarten and Skandera.

Regrettably, both speakers cancelled.  However, the Symposium was kind enough to allow me to fill in and facilitate a larger discussion with the community on education policy.  I’m looking forward to the event and information on it can be found here.

Our school district, Eagle County Schools, did provide a brief for the prior speakers to give them the local context of our district and its relationship with our union.  This document can be accessed here:


To sum up, we are working to pattern the approaches we use in Eagle County after those strategies that have been proven effective at systemically improving student outcomes in other high performing education systems.  In these high performing systems, we see relationships that are collaborative, healthy, and respectful.

For us, it calls into question the wisdom of any reform strategies predicated on disenfranchising or dismantling unions.  In the high performing systems we have studied, union-busting just doesn’t seem to be in the playbook.

Note that we do not make the claim that unionization has a causal relationship with high performance.  There are certainly plenty of education systems with strong unions that are not high performing.  However, in those systems which have achieved the kind of long-standing and systemic success we are seeking, we find none of them have gotten there through expending energy on an adversarial relationship with the union.

As always, I look forward to and appreciate any reactions.