The New Jersey School Boards Association collects and maintains a database of teacher contract bargaining data, including settlement rates, board gains, salary guides, work time, insurance matters and more.

NJSBA urges school board 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.

However, 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.

Settlement Rates The results of our continuing surveys of the New Jersey school districts which have teacher’s contracts that expired on June 30, 2017, with 98 percent of the districts responding, has found that a collectively negotiated agreement has been reached for 146 out of the 199 expired contracts, some of which are pending ratification. The results of the recent inquiries to those school districts also indicated that 24 percent of the unsettled districts are still using face-to-face bargaining, and 76 percent are in the mediation, fact-finding, or the super-conciliation process. In addition, there are still a few districts whose contracts expired in 2016 that have not yet reached an agreement. However, the number of older expired agreements that haven’t yet been settled in a new contract are fewer than we usually see at this point in time.

For new teacher’s contracts which begin with the 2017-2018 school year, the average increase — inclusive of increment — is 2.94 percent for the 2017-2018, 2.94 percent for 2018-2019, and 2.92 percent for 2019-2020. The average increases are up slightly from districts whose contracts began with the 2016-2017 school year, with average increases of 2.82 percent for 2016-2017 and 2.84 percent for 2017-2018, and 2.85 percent for 2018-2019.

Board Achievements In considering settlement rates, board members should also consider givebacks from the teachers’ association, which can impact the effective cost of the settlement. For example, a district may have bargained for more student contact time, achieved a cap on tuition reimbursement, a move to a less expensive health insurance plan, 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 76 percent of settlements covering the 2017-2018 school year have reported some type of concession from the association. The most notable board achievement reported by school districts in the past year was changing health plans to more cost-effective options, with 44 percent of districts reporting this or some other health insurance cost containment. Other gains being reported by the boards include adding days to the calendar, lengthening the workday, capping tuition reimbursement, and reducing or eliminating longevity.

Health Insurance Contributions In a vast majority of school districts, Chapter 78, the law requiring public employees to contribute to their health insurance premiums, has reached sunset and is now negotiable. School district negotiating committees have been tackling the union’s claim that most districts are lowering the contributions levels. NJSBA has determined through surveys of school districts that only 13 percent of districts statewide have negotiated a reduction to their teachers’ Chapter 78 contributions or have provided the employee with a stipend to offset those contributions. Therefore, most districts have been successful in maintaining the employee’s share of the premium contributions. While union representatives may tout a much higher change rate, those claims include individual units within a district rather than the district as a whole.

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 on the NJSBA website where settlements and negotiations data is accessible to members (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.

Sandy Raup is a data analyst in NJSBA’s Legal and Labor Relations Department.