Is Binding Arbitration an Answer to Stalled Harlem Talks?

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As the Harlem teachers’ strike reaches week two, many parents and students are losing hope that the sides will ever come to an agreement. Some would like the union and the School Board to enter into binding arbitration.

The idea has been tossed around before, but some Harlem parents feel it makes more sense now than ever.

"Are we here for the kids? The kids would benefit because they'd be back in school," says Harlem mom, Leslie Kopp.

Binding arbitration means the School Board and the teachers would give up on talks and put the agreement in the hands of a third party.

"A number of states passed laws on compulsory arbitration [for municipalities]. There still is collective bargaining with the unions, but if talks break down, there would be arbitration that both sides would be bound to," says economics professor Bob Von Der Ohe.

In this case, since this is not a law in Illinois, both sides would have to voluntarily enter into binding arbitration. The teacher's union and the district would put their final offers on the table and choose an arbitrator. That person would then review the situation and make a decision both sides would have to accept.

"We're not looking at [a solution] overnight, but looking at something relatively short," says Von Der Ohe.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Federation of Teachers says the union is not considering binding arbitration. Superintendent Pat De Luca will only say the board is discussing all options. However, most parents say they'd rather see actions that will get their kids back in school.

Binding arbitration is not commonly used in Illinois to solve teacher strikes. However, it is more likely to occur the longer a strike lasts.