The purpose of this study is to help parents, teachers, administrators, taxpayers, and school board members understand collective bargaining's role in Michigan public education, and to recommend teacher contract language that promotes better teacher performance, more effective management decision-making, and improved educational opportunities for students.

This study analyzes the K-12 public school collective bargaining agreements from Michigan's 583 districts, excluding the intermediate districts, and identifies eight key contract provisions that can be improved to help school districts provide a better quality education to their students. The agreements were obtained from school districts by using the Freedom of Information Act.

It is the only study ever to systematically analyze the hundreds of collective bargaining agreements of all the school districts in a state.

Districts operating under expired contracts were included in the analysis to the extent possible, using information from the last ratified agreement. Data were not available from districts currently engaged in negotiating. Text references to actual contract language typically do not identify specific schools. (The author may be contacted for a list of the contracts containing specific language cited in this study.)

Comparative data regarding the costs of these specific contract language provisions and actual costs of administering the collective bargaining agreements were obtained from school districts of various sizes.

Teacher salary schedules are also reviewed to determine the spread between the base salary and the top step. Additional review of the salary and seniority information examined the salaries for individual teachers in each district for comparison based on the teachers' years of experience, education, and pay. The economic impact of the step system is analyzed.

The collective bargaining process is often shaped by the decisions from administrative agencies and both federal and state courts. Key court cases applicable to collective bargaining, which appear to have been ignored in many contracts, are identified and discussed to inform employees, school boards, and administrators of their legal rights and responsibilities.

For the first hundred years of American public education, collective bargaining for teachers was nonexistent. It was not until the early 1960s that the NEA's philosophy shifted away from that of a professional organization toward that of a trade union. This study compares the costs of various fringe benefits packages available to school districts. Agreements concerning fringe benefits are a significant part of collective bargaining and, due to changes in school funding, school districts are looking for more cost containment measures.

Finally, this study was reviewed by school board members, superintendents, management and union negotiators, school attorneys, and other professionals working in the education field to ensure accuracy.