District Trendline

Tr3 Trends: The Timing of Teacher Contracts

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July 2013

Welcome to Tr3 Trends, NCTQ's monthly newsletter designed just for school district officials (subscribe here).  Each month we use data from NCTQ's Tr3 database to highlight the latest trends in school district policies and collective bargaining agreements nationwide.  Tr3 contains teacher policies from 114 school districts, including the 50 largest districts, the largest district in each state, Broad Prize winners, Gates investment districts and members of the Council of the Great City Schools. Teacher policies from all 50 states are also included.

Summer is prime time for school districts and unions to reach agreements on teachers' collective bargaining agreements (a.k.a. teacher contracts).  This month we looked to see who's lingering at the bargaining table and allowing teachers to work under contracts that have lived beyond their initial terms.  We also looked at how long contracts are typically in effect before they're up for renegotiation.

Here's what we found:

In about a quarter of districts (28 out of 114), teachers are working under expired collective bargaining agreements.  That does not mean that teachers are working without a contract in such districts. Unless a contract contains an explicit sunset clause, the terms of the contract remain in effect beyond the contract's end date and until the district and union reach agreement on another contract.

About one third of the districts (36 out of 114) have no contract because they do not collectively bargain with teachers.  The remaining districts are working under current contracts.

Which districts are running the most behind?  The contracts in Buffalo (expired in 2004), New York City (expired in 2009), and Toledo (expired in 2010) top the list.  And teachers in Buffalo and New York haven't seen cost-of-living raises since their contracts lapsed, though they have received raises for gaining years of experience (known as "step increases").  New York and its union are currently engaged in fact-finding, during which a third party reviews facts relevant to the negotiations and makes recommendations for moving forward.  Toledo and Buffalo continue to negotiate. 

The table below shows the status of teachers' contracts in all 114 districts we track.

The average term for teachers' contracts, in theory, is 2.6 years, with the modal term being 3 years.  In practice, though, the terms are commonly longer since there are so many expired contracts.

Baltimore County has the longest contract term at seven years (2007 to 2014); however, the district has issued supplements to the contract for the past four school years.  There are five districts with five-year contracts: Sioux Falls, Jefferson County (KY), Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and Buffalo.

The duration of contracts is sometimes dictated by the state.  In Oklahoma, for instance, teachers' contracts can only be in effect for one year.

When contracts do expire and are renegotiated, we take notice.  Visit our Tr3 database to view the latest agreements in 114 school districts across the nation.

Go to Tr3's custom report page to access all the data we use in Tr3 Trends and to compare teacher policies in 114 school districts nationwide. Send feedback to gmoored@nctq.org.