As schools prepare to open in early September, negotiations over teacher contracts are continuing in approximately 18% of the state’s school districts, according to data collected by the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA).

Last year, about 29% of the state’s school districts were still in negotiations when the school year began, according to the NJSBA, which tracks contract negotiations in the state’s 578 operating school districts.

“It is not unusual for school districts to be at the bargaining table when the school year begins,” explained Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Therefore, parents and students should not worry. There should be no impact on the opening of school or on school operations.

“We can expect to see many districts reach settlement throughout the fall,” he continued.

“Teachers never work without a contract,” Feinsod explained. “When a school board and teachers union have not reached a new agreement, the previous contract – with its guarantee of salary and benefits and other protections – remains in place until a new agreement is reached.”

Teachers in 103 school districts will begin the 2019-2020 school year working under provisions of the previous agreement. Last year, 166 districts had not reached settlement when school began.

Average Raises For 2019-2020, the average public school teacher in New Jersey will receive a 3.01% raise, according to NJSBA data.

The figure is somewhat higher than last year’s average salary increase of 2.92%, but well below the salary increases seen a decade ago, NJSBA data indicate. For example, the average settlement rate for contracts covering the 2009-2010 school year was 4.23%. (See chart.)

Salary is only one part of the compensation package. Often, a contract will reflect reduced costs for employee benefits as well as increased work time and other provisions to advance educational goals.

School Board Achievements Close to 75% of contracts covering 2019-2020 reflect board achievements, ranging from a longer school day or school year to changes in health insurance plan options.

  • In approximately 32% of contracts covering the 2019-2020 school year, the board of education was able to negotiate work-time changes, including more instructional time and additional professional development. Last year, 30% of new contracts included such provisions.
  • Another 47% of agreements covering 2019-2020 include changes in health insurance, such as provisions for lower premiums, and higher co-pay and deductible options.

The New Jersey School Boards Association provides support to local school boards during the negotiations process. Services include analysis of the expiring agreement, data on collective bargaining agreements, advice on reaching goals through negotiations, and review of salary guides.

“The goal of the board of education is to provide a level of staff compensation aligned with the district’s educational goals and within the financial resources available to the community,” said Feinsod.