A recent survey of New Jersey school districts has found that 42 percent of the districts whose contracts expired last June are still in the process of reaching a collectively negotiated agreement. That’s a slight increase in the percentage of unsettled districts from this time last year, when 35 percent of districts remained unsettled. The results of the survey indicated that approximately 43 districts are still at the bargaining table, 39 are in mediation, and 19 are involved in the factfinding process. Also included in those numbers are 16 districts whose contracts expired in 2013 or earlier.

While NJSBA urges negotiations committees to bargain with a primary focus on their board’s ability to pay, rather than relying mainly on comparative settlements in surrounding school districts, board members, especially those on the negotiating team, should be knowledgeable about settlement data and current trends in contract negotiations. Comparative data can provide boards with a sense of what other districts are agreeing to. It can also provide board members with a sense of how competitive their district is in various areas, such as pay and work time, as well as the overall negotiations climate, before sitting down at the negotiating table.

For settled contracts, the average increase – inclusive of increment – for the 2014-2015 school year is 2.44 percent, 2.45 percent for 2015-2016, and 2.45 percent for 2016-2017. The average increases are up slightly from this time last year, when the average increase was 2.37 percent for 2014-2015.

Board Achievements

In accessing settlement rates, another area to consider involves givebacks from the teachers’ association, which not only factor into how you view that settlement, but also the effective cost of that settlement. For example, a district may have bargained for more student contact time, achieved a cap on tuition reimbursement, eliminated a longevity provision, or obtained some other type of change that can help put those increases in the proper perspective.

NJSBA has determined through individual district surveys that 73 percent of settlements covering the 2014-2015 school year have reported some type of concession from the association. The most notable board achievement being reported is an increase in work time, with 37 percent of districts gaining some type of workday changes. Some examples of these achievements are adding days to the calendar, lengthening the workday, or simply restructuring the current workday to allow for more student contact time. This is up from this time last year, when 31 percent of districts reported a work time achievement.

The table accompanying this story displays a selection of recent settlements – those which have been agreed upon in the last 12 months. More detailed data is available (password required). For specific reports based upon your selected criteria (i.e. similar enrollment group), members may also contact Sandy Raup at (609) 278-5224.