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Negotiate Smarter, Not Harder: How ClearGov Streamlines Teacher Union Deals

School District Teacher Union Negotiations

In the world of public education, discussions about teacher unions often revolve around salary negotiations and benefits. However, the influence of these unions extends far beyond financial considerations. They play a pivotal role in shaping policies, advocating for educators, and ultimately impacting the quality of education students receive.

But teacher union negotiations can be hard.

In an industry already strapped for resources and often operating on a tight budget, striking a fair deal that benefits both the teachers and the school community is a balancing act. The challenge is compounded when school finance departments use manual processes, like spreadsheets, to develop and analyze the many, many potential scenarios and how they impact the budget.  

The solution? A cloud-based personnel budgeting tool that enables real-time dealmaking to speed up the process, improve collaboration, and ensure a fair and feasible deal for all.

The Complex World Of School Union Negotiations

Much like buying a car, school union negotiations involve wish lists, haggling, and reaching an agreeable deal.

Negotiations can take days or even weeks for school district controllers or finance departments to analyze the financial feasibility of proposed deals. New contracts have to make financial sense and work within limited budgets, not only today but several years from now.

Furthermore, negotiations become extra tangled when dealing with multiple unions or divisions within labor unions. Managing comparisons and expectations among different groups can be challenging, with one group seeking what another has received. Schools often use pattern bargaining to apply one union agreement’s framework to others to simplify negotiations.

Adding to the complexity, schools may employ outside counsel and labor lawyers to participate in negotiations or draft and review contracts, which adds more costs as negotiations drag on.

The whole process can become so convoluted and time-consuming that school boards and union leaders are left stuck in an endless cycle of back-and-forth negotiations. The delay can be detrimental, and as the saying goes, “time kills all deals.” Returning to the negotiation table after extensive discussions not only frustrates both parties, but also erodes trust and can make the education hiring system appear inefficient.

Beyond Salary: What Else Do Unions Advocate For?

Salaries and benefits are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to school union negotiations.

Teacher unions like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) advocate for various policies that impact both teachers and students. These negotiations encompass topics such as working conditions, classroom resources, and educational policies that can have a lasting effect on the quality of education that teachers provide.

Working Conditions: Teacher unions often press for improved working conditions. This includes not only the physical environment but also issues like class sizes, workload, and access to necessary teaching materials. When teachers have better working conditions, they can provide a more conducive learning environment for students.

Student Resources: Unions also push for increased funding for educational resources, such as textbooks, technology, and classroom supplies that are essential for effective teaching and learning.

Educational Policies: Teacher unions engage in discussions about educational policies, including curriculum development, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations. They aim to influence these policies in ways that benefit both educators and students so that education remains student-focused.

Professional Development: Unions often advocate for professional development opportunities for educators. By investing in ongoing training and support, teachers have the tools and knowledge to adapt to evolving teaching methods and technologies.

Safety Measures: Especially in recent times, teacher unions have played a vital role in advocating for the safety of students and educators. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, unions worked to ensure that safety measures were in place to protect everyone in the school community.

The Burden On The Finance Department

While the spotlight is often on the negotiation table, the real work happens behind the scenes as the finance department evaluates how various scenarios impact the budget by running reports from their accounting software and manipulating data in spreadsheets to evaluate each deal’s feasibility.

This manual, labor-intensive process can lead to errors, both significant and minor. Creating and analyzing countless scenarios this way results in hours of manual reconciliation due to the far-reaching impact of union contracts on a school district budget.

The Ideal Solution: Real-Time Dealmaking At The Negotiation Table

School board representatives dream of having budget numbers in real-time at the negotiation table.

This would enable them to quickly assess the financial feasibility of proposed deals, turning negotiation sessions into problem-solving sessions and speeding up the process significantly. Trust between the parties could be built more effectively by transparently sharing numbers and collaborating in an open, honest, and fair format.

ClearGov Personnel Budgeting offers an ideal solution for managing union negotiations in the education sector.

It allows you to analyze the effects of adjustments to salaries and benefits for more informed negotiations. It’s simple to set up units to include the cost of all benefits and additional pay, and you can easily create multi-year scenario plans and see how tenured union employees will go from one step to the next. You can easily make cost of living adjustments and merit adjustments at the person, job, or unit level to streamline the process, and you can even create scenarios for the various multiple unions within your organization.

The platform’s user-friendly interface empowers city managers and negotiation handlers to take control at the negotiation table and reduce the burden on controllers or finance directors.

Want to see how ClearGov can take the pain out of teacher union negotiations? Watch a quick demo or give us a call today. We’d love to chat!

September 26, 2023

Matt Benati

Matt Benati is Vice President of Marketing for ClearGov®, the leading provider of Budget Cycle Management software for local governments. Matt is passionate about helping organizations modernize their annual budgeting process by automating workflow, increasing collaboration, and improving transparency between governments and citizens.

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