Reggie Jackson Ain’t Got Nothing on Us! In Nebraska, October Means it’s Time for Negotiations

As Major League Baseball enters the postseason, school boards and

administrators in Nebraska need to prepare for an event of a different sort.

School boards should be using October to get ready to negotiate contracts

with their local teachers' unions. Boards of education, administrators, and

teachers should move quickly to work through the negotiations process for

the 2016-17 school year.

The Nebraska education community is growing more comfortable with the

statutory timelines for negotiations, but it is still worthwhile to review the

dates. Board and teacher associations are obligated to begin negotiations

for the 2016-17 contract year by November 1, 2015. This year November 1 st

falls on a Sunday, so we are urging boards to schedule their first

negotiations session no later than the week of October 26. You have only

until February 8 th (100 days from November 1 st ) to finish negotiations. This

means that if you have your school board meetings on the second Monday of

the month, you could wait until your February board meeting to have a draft

agreement ready for board approval. We believe the better practice is to

have the proposed agreement ready for submission to the board at its

regular January board meeting. If the board and association cannot reach

agreement by February 8 th , they must be ready to submit the matter to a

resolution officer.

Recommendations. With all this in mind, we recommend the following:

 Beat the Negotiation Deadline. We strongly encourage boards to

conclude negotiations and have a tentative agreement in place no

later than the scheduled winter break and to ratify the agreement at

the regular January board meeting. Why the urgency? The 100 day

time period includes the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's


 Review Your Entire Negotiated Agreement. Sometimes boards of

education focus on base salary to the detriment of other important

issues. This is the perfect time of year to review your entire contract

for provisions which are poorly-written, unclear, or unwise. Few

school district cases go to the Commission of Industrial Relations, but

we deal with the negative effects of poorly-worded collective

bargaining provisions every day. The Nebraska State Education

Association has very strategically focused on bargaining issues like

paid time off and unlimited prior experience across the state. School

boards who are not aware of the unintended consequences of these

sorts of provisions can agree to include them in their agreement only

to regret that decision later.

 Conduct a Comparability Study. We encourage boards to use a

comparability study as part of the negotiations process. A

comparability study allows the board to negotiate from a position of

power and knowledge rather than guesswork and emotion. If your

school district ever goes before a resolution officer or the CIR, a

comparability study will serve as the basis for determining the

ultimate resolution. Nebraska law requires boards of education to pay

their teachers between 98 and 102 percent of the midpoint of their

array. Boards have no way of knowing if they are hitting this

benchmark from year to year if they do not periodically perform a

formal comparability study.

If you have questions or if you do not believe your school district will be able

to comply with these deadlines, you need to obtain professional advice

promptly. We recommend that you consult with your school district’s

attorney or call Karen, Steve, or Bobby.