“What’s the going rate?” This question is sure to surface at some point during negotiations, and local teacher unions will be quick to answer. The argument over the “going rate” is designed to pressure the board to settle at, or above, whatever average or district settlement rate the union is using to support their current salary proposal.
Instead of blindly accepting the union’s proposed rate, the board’s negotiating team would be better served by conducting its own research and identifying data points that support the board’s proposal.
In situations where a particular district’s settlement rate appears to be well in excess of the county or statewide average, the overall cost of the settlement may actually be much lower when other aspects of the settlement are considered. For example, in a number of districts, boards have recently achieved significant savings by changing health plans. In such cases, it may benefit the board to adopt a higher “going rate” in return for cost savings in the health care package. Examining the complete settlement package can also help explain why a comparative settlement rate may be higher than average, such as a significant increase in teacher-pupil contact time, which may have been of utmost importance to that particular board. Situations vary among districts, so an important goal in one district may not have the same significance in others.
Also, one should question why one board would pay the same increase as another board when the circumstances may be quite different. Districts in the union’s comparisons may not be comparable in terms of size, wealth, socioeconomic factors, geographic location, community, or local educational or operational needs. Even when a strong trend is evident, local situations may warrant a settlement, or a portion of a settlement, that differs from the trend. Meeting or exceeding the “going rate” is the union’s modus operandi, but it shouldn’t be yours. What is pertinent to the needs of your district, as well as the 2 percent tax levy cap and how much your district can afford, should always be at the forefront of the negotiating team’s decision-making.
“Where can comparative data be found?” The NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department collects information from recent teacher’s contract settlements and maintains a comprehensive database of various contract provision summaries, including salary guides and longevity. Our settlement reports include a description of the union concessions obtained by the board to help you put the settlement into its proper perspective. Teacher’s collective negotiations agreements are also available on our website to assist you with your comparative data research.