Teachers' contracts: They're complicated

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There's a growing chorus of policy wonks challenging the long-held assumption that teachers' contracts are to blame for all the ills plaguing schools. Following on the heels of recent papers from the Fordham Institute and AEI's Rick Hess, the latest comes from researcher Mitch Price at the Center for Reinventing Public Education. Price argues that the role played by contracts is really more complicated than the more ideologically disposed may like to admit.

After examining the contracts of eight districts, Price finds five different answers to the question of whether unions and contracts are barriers to high school reform:

  • Yes, because many educators perceive complex and unwieldy contracts as barriers to reform.
  • Yes, because seniority-based preferences and time-use rules constrain school-level staffing and scheduling autonomy.
  • No, because contracts contain waiver provisions.
  • No, because contracts often contain surprising degrees of flexibility.
  • Maybe, because many provisions are ambiguous.

    Price doesn't contend that any of the contracts that he examined were all that flexible, but he didn't find them to be entirely unworkable. That means reformers still have to push and prod.

    NCTQ is happy to help.