The online reports provided contain a substantial amount of information, which can be utilized when a district is preparing for bargaining, is engaged in at the table bargaining, or during the impasse process.
In the early stages of preparing for bargaining, boards should gather and analyze the data in a dispassionate manner. At this stage, a researcher should seek to get an accurate picture of where his/her district stands in relation to others. The data will help the board identify its own bargaining goals, establish realistic parameters and anticipate union proposals. Rather than seeking to justify the board's bargaining positions, the preparation stage is a time for boards to educate themselves and prepare their bargaining positions.
After a board has reviewed and analyzed this information, it is in a much stronger position to effectively utilize the data to conduct further, more focused, research and fully prepare for the bargaining process. During bargaining, the data gathered in the preparation stage may be used to counter trends asserted by the union, verify the data supplied by the union, and rebut union positions. At impasse, well-constructed comparative arguments, based on precise distinctions, can be effective in diminishing the credibility of the union's bargaining positions and enhancing the board's position.
While a board's comparative research is essential in providing an informed understanding of a board's relative standing, it should not in any way force a board to agree to other districts' bargaining outcomes. It is a legitimate position for boards to refuse to match "the going rate" at the bargaining table. However, boards must be prepared to face mediators', factfinders' and superconciliators' reliance on comparisons. Please note, although researchers should never misrepresent the data, they should feel free to seek out the comparisons that best suit their needs.
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There are many factors, in addition to the above, which can be utilized by boards to assert their bargaining positions, deflect union arguments, or make additional distinctions between districts.
These factors include, but are in no way limited to: