Bargaining Budgets

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A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News sheds some light on a growing problem in districts across the country: the (in)ability of school districts to plan pay raises for teachers. The effort to negotiate teacher contracts is never an easy process. Luckily most negotiations occur only once every three to five years. However because districts can't predict state education budgets for future years, they are often left to blindly negotiate the most contentious issues--salaries and benefits--annually.

Some districts take a leap of faith and hope that the state follows through on promised funds that would enable the districts to stay true to the negotiated salary increase for teachers. But when the budget the state hands down is smaller than a district anticipated, the district is then forced to reshuffle funds in order to meet the pay package bargained in good faith. When districts have to meet employee raises that weren't part of their own budgets, it means making a lot of other line item cuts such as classroom supplies--a tricky balance that often frustrates teachers no matter which way the pendulum swings.

For example, one California teacher dipped into funds raised from a candy sale to buy workbooks for her kindergarten class.

Of course if districts end up short, they can always start charging teachers for their electricity use. See below.