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Negotiations 2012:

Teacher Contracts Bring Lower Settlements, More Instruction Time

TRENTON, September 4, 2012—Average teacher raises continue a downward trend, while school boards negotiate more instructional time, the New Jersey School Boards Association reported today.

The average teacher raise for 2012-2013 is 2.42 percent, according to NJSBA. More than a third (38 percent) of districts report settlements at 2 percent or lower for this current school year. In 2011-2012, the average settlement rate was 3.19 percent.

Teacher contracts in New Jersey typically last for three years. Recently settled 2012-2013 contracts (agreements reached since July 1 of last year) show average raises of 2.36 percent – lower than the settlement rate for all 2012-2013 contracts.

"Settlement rates continue their downward trend due to the state's 2 percent tax levy cap, the slow economy, and local school board concerns about property tax burdens," explained Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director.

Districts in Negotiations Of the 587 local boards of education in New Jersey, 160 remain in negotiations. (The 160 districts in negotiations include 107 where contracts expired June 30 of 2012, and 53 where contracts expired in 2011 or earlier.)

Last year at this time, 208 school districts were still in negotiations with their teachers union, while in 2010 155 districts were still at the bargaining table as the school year began.

"Parents should not be alarmed at the number of unsettled contracts," said Bilik.

"It's not unusual for more than 150 school districts to begin classes with the school board and teachers union still at the bargaining table," she said. "This should not impact the opening of school or school operations. That's because teachers in New Jersey never work 'without a contract.' All of the salary, benefits and protections of the previous contract remain in place until a new agreement is reached.

"NJSBA continues to provide support to local school boards during the negotiations process," Bilik continued. These services include analysis of the expiring agreement, data on collective bargaining agreements, advice on reaching goals through negotiations, and review of salary guides.

Instruction Time, Other Achievements In addition to curbing salary increases, teacher contracts are reflecting a trend toward more instruction time.

More than a quarter (26 percent) of 2012-2013 contracts contain an increase in work time, up from 14 percent in the previous year.  Some examples of additional work time include adding days to the school year, adding time to the school day, and restructuring the day to allow for more student/teacher contact.

Some school boards have frozen staff stipends for extra-curricular or co-curricular duties, and restructured salary guides to control costs. In addition, NJSBA has found a number of school boards have placed controls over tuition reimbursement by decreasing or capping payments or providing reimbursement only if the employee remains in the district for a given number of years.

 "The goal of the board of education is to provide an appropriate level of staff compensation within the financial resources available to the community," said Bilik.

The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of 586 local boards of education and includes more than 75 charter school associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.