School Contracts 101
By Charles K. Trainor
Labor contracts set wage levels and work rules, so naturally these contracts have a significant impact on district budgets. Consider the following case. In May, Pennsylvania’s Neshaminy School District was in contract negotiations with its teachers. The board wanted to eliminate 201 side agreements or memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that had been adopted through previous contracts.
Side agreements that limit class size, require excessive classroom preparation time, or impose other work rules can add to a district’s bottom line. As a consequence, district resources are reduced, limiting funds available for student programs.
Neshaminy’s board president asserted that the MOUs inhibited administrators by tying their hands with burdensome rules. Various factions within the district’s teachers union disagreed about eliminating the MOUs from the 78-page contract. Some teachers were willing to reduce many of the MOUs but union leadership insisted they remain.
This dilemma is not unique. Districts across the country regularly negotiate with their unions as contracts expire or initiate new contracts with outside vendors. In order to provide thorough oversight, your board must anticipate potential pitfalls that can negatively impact your budget and student services.
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