Connecticut's Arbitration Law for Teachers Reviewed

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

A committee of the Connecticut legislature is studying the state's 10-year-old binding-arbitration law for settlement of teacher contracts to see if it has had an inflationary effect on teacher salaries.

Critics of the law--which requires that collective-bargaining disputes be resolved by an outside mediator--contend that it is biased in favor of the state's teachers, who enjoy one of the highest average salaries of teachers nationwide.

The 12-member legislative-review committee is expected to report in December on possible changes in the law for consideration by the 1990 session of the General Assembly. The panel plans to hold a series of hearings on the subject around the state this month.

As they prepare for the report and the ensuing legislative debate, critics and proponents of the dispute-resolution mechanism already have begun trading charges.

At a press conference last month, three Republican lawmakers argued that a "pattern of decisions being reached overwhelmingly in favor of the unions" has led to "a serious breakdown" in the arbitration system.

In response, Mark Waxenberg, president of the Connecticut Education Association, called the lawmakers' statements "a blatant attempt to sacrifice legitimate inquiry for political advantage."

Salary Inflation Charged

Senators James H. McLaughlin and M. Adela Eads and Representative Brian J. Flaherty said at the press conference that settlements were reached in favor of teachers in from 60 percent to 89 percent of arbitrated cases each year from 1984 to 1989.

The lawmakers also complained that teacher raises in both arbitrated and negotiated settlements over the past two years averaged 9.4 percent, while the annual inflation rate averaged 5 percent.

The salary increases demonstrate that local officials have submitted to excessive salary awards to avoid going to arbitration and risking even less favorable outcomes, they argued.

The legislators recommended several changes in the law, including adding a new fact-finding step, appointing a "fiscal representative" from the negotiating municipality to each arbitration hearing, and giving municipalities the power to reject state-arbitrated contracts.

Ms. Eads and Mr. Flaherty are members of the review commission.

Boards Opposed

The lawmakers' critique of the law echoed complaints long voiced by school and local-government officials.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education "is very much in favor" of the review of binding arbitration, according to its executive director, Terry Cassidy.

The association has been fighting the arbitration law in the courts since its passage, he noted.

The measure infringes on the rights of localities to govern themselves, Mr. Cassidy said.

"It takes away from the local municipality the ability to determine what the local budget will be," he said.

The committee plans to analyze the law's fiscal impact on municipalities and the state budget. It is also expected to look at the effect of the 1986 Education Enhancement Act on negotiation, mediation, and binding arbitration, among other topics.

'Not One-Sided'

But Mr. Waxenberg of the cea called binding arbitration a "fair and equitable" mechanism that has prevented strikes.

The law was passed in 1979 in response to a series of crippling teacher strikes. Since then, there have been no such walkouts in the state.

In the past 10 years, the union president said, only 20 percent of teacher contracts in the state have been arbitrated.

Of the 258 separate issues arbitrated last year--including salaries, health insurance, and length of the school day--school boards prevailed on 140 issues, he said, while teachers' associations won on only 118.

"It's clearly not a one-sided law," Mr. Waxenberg said. "All of the accusations come down to one simple thing--they want the control of teachers' salaries and the board budget back in their hands so they can dole out the dollars as they wish."

As for salary increases, Mr. Waxenberg said public-opinion polls in the state have consistently shown that the public favors making teachers' salaries more competitive.

Pay levels have risen dramatically as a result of the Education Enhancement Act, which increased starting salaries by 21 percent. The average teacher in the state now receives $37,339 annually.

"Historically, teachers' salaries have trailed the inflation rate by a good two to three years," Mr. Waxenberg said. "I didn't hear an outcry saying 'Let's give the teachers the inflation rate' when it was 12 percent."

Other States

Two other states, Wisconsin and Iowa, also mandate arbitration to settle teacher-contract disputes. Several others allow negotiating parties to enter into arbitration without requiring that they do so, according to John Dunlop, a compensation coordinator for the National Education Association.

A month-long teachers' strike in Great Falls, Mont., this year prompted 5,000 residents to sign a petition demanding that binding arbitration be used to settle the conflict. Eric Feaver, president of the Montana Education Association, said the union is examining whether to sponsor a statewide signature drive to put the matter before voters next year.

There is little support in the state legislature for binding arbitration, he said.

Vol. 09, Issue 06

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >