Teacher Contract Database: Resource or Ridiculous?
It was a gigantic undertaking, but the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now believes its new teacher contract database will help “decision makers as well as taxpayers” better understand how teachers across the state are being compensated.
The database unveiled Wednesday includes information about 173 of the 174 collective bargaining contracts for public, regional, and vocational schools.
It also includes the contracts for three of the 22 charter schools. Most charter schools don’t have collective bargaining contracts, but ConnCAN CEO Patrick Riccards said Wednesday he wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to putting up the salary schedules or work rules for the teachers in non-unionized charter schools.
“It just wouldn’t be an apples to apples comparison,” he said. “But that’s something we would consider.”
Their failure to include the information caused one of the two teacher unions to cry foul.
“If the stated purpose is ‘to have as much information as possible’, ConnCAN should have included data from charters whether there is a contract or not,” Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut, said.
She called the database “selective” and said “ConnCAN appears to have a secondary agenda beyond disclosure, particularly when they have not disclosed data for their own network of charter schools.”
The state’s teacher unions and charter school proponents butted heads during the recent legislative session over charter enrollment policies. The unions argued charter schools “cherry pick” their students and cited a recent study by the independent Government Accountability Office that showed charter schools continue to enroll fewer disabled students than public schools.
The creation of the database seemed to resurrect the argument, which was partially resolved during the legislative session. Under the new education reform law any new charter schools will be required to enroll a larger population of disabled and English Language Learners.
By putting all the data about the number of students per classroom, average salary, and required teacher prep time in one location it helps answer the call for transparency, Riccards said.
“As education reform continues to move forward in Connecticut, it is essential that all stakeholders have as much information as possible so we can make the best decisions for our children,” he added.
The website also allows users to compare the contracts of up to four different districts to see how they match up against each other. For example, a comparison of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport shows many similarities when it comes to the length of the school year and average number of students per classroom, but of the three only New Haven teachers have evaluation language written into their contracts.
“It allows us to look at what teachers are getting and frankly what they’re not getting,” Riccards said.
For instance, when it comes to seniority-based layoffs in Hartford the last four numbers of a teacher’s Social Security number are used as the tiebreaker. In Bristol there are seven tie-breaking provisions for seniority-based layoffs, including the date that the most recent application for employment was stamped. In Stamford it’s a teacher’s birthday. Only two districts do not include reduction in force provisions in the teacher contract: Old Saybrook and Rocky Hill.
The data also shows that the average number of years to reach the top salary level (regardless of degree status or performance) is 14 and that 36 percent of the districts froze step increases this year.
Riccards said his organization has been working on the database for more than a year now and were inspired by a 2007 National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) effort creating a national teacher contract database for select cities, including New Haven and Hartford.
But Palmer suggested that “instead of releasing information which is already publicly available, we need to focus on the larger issue of funding.”
“The charter schools ConnCAN represent received huge increases in ongoing education funding while public school systems received smaller increases that are only good for the next school year,“ Palmer said. “Despite those small increases, many school districts are facing budget shortfalls and are having to layoff teachers. Connecticut needs to fix its revenue system and properly fund public education.”
Under the new education reform law charter school funding will increase from $9,400 to $11.500 per student over the next three years. The increase amounts to about $8.1 million in state funds. The same bill increased Education Cost Sharing funds for public school students by $50 million.
Charter school advocates have long argued they’re the ones that are underfunded.