Collective Bargaining is essential to addressing public school employees’ interests and needs. CEA Local Associations and local school boards negotiate “master agreements” that include, but are not limited to, the terms and conditions of employment for teachers and classified school employees.
History of Public Education Employee Collective Bargaining in Colorado
November 21, 1967, is a landmark date in the history of public school employee advocacy in Colorado. On that date, the first teacher collective bargaining agreement went into effect between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and the Denver School Board. This master agreement, as teacher contracts came to be called, was a model for CEA Local Associations that began bargaining with school districts in the late 1960s as educators sought a meaningful professional voice in decisions that affect teaching, their jobs, and their students.
The Colorado Springs Teachers Association (CSTA, now the Colorado Springs Education Association) negotiated the second master agreement in 1968. In the next five years, 14 CEA locals bargained contracts: Boulder Valley, Englewood, Sheridan, Adams County District 12 (Northglenn-Thornton), Jefferson County, Pueblo District 60, Fort Morgan, Greeley, Mesa Valley (Grand Junction), Aurora, St. Vrain Valley, Douglas County, and Adams County District 14 (Commerce City).
Unlike public school employees in other states, Colorado educators bargained without a state statute guaranteeing them the right to bargain collectively. CEA built the legal framework for bargaining through numerous court cases, establishing the legality and enforceability of negotiations. In 1977, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that teacher master agreements were legal and school boards could enter into them if they desired.
As more CEA Local Associations bargained with school boards, master agreements became a stakeholder partnership that addresses both employer and employee needs and concerns, such as employee compensation and benefits, working conditions, and every day work-related issues. Collective bargaining is simply a process, mutually designed and implemented, that involves education employees in making decisions that directly affect their personal and professional lives. Because this bargaining occurs in the public sector, rather than the private sector, one of the important topics in educator collective bargaining is the relationship between educators’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions.
Through the collective bargaining process, public school employees achieve the equality and respect they must have to effectively operate our public schools, provide students a quality education, and achieve the compensation they deserve.
CEA provides support to its local associations that bargain. Through UniServ staff and the Regional Bargaining Program, CEA provides training to local negotiators, information and research, salary schedule analysis; and assistance in developing contract language.
Master Agreement History in Colorado
CEA Settle Master Agreement Database
CEA believes that by 2011, the annual salary of a starting teacher (preschool through college/university) should be at least $40,000, and educators with 10 years of experience and a Master’s degree plus 30 credit hours should be paid no less than $80,000 annually. CEA believes that all education support professionals should be paid a living wage at a minimum.
Why is it important for educators to strive for professional pay? Because educators – both teachers and education support professionals – work every day to guarantee that every child attends a great public school, and because research shows that the quality of a child’s teacher is the most important factor affecting that child’s achievement in school.
Good salaries help school districts attract and keep good employees, while research shows that low salaries drive people from public education jobs, especially young teachers under age 30 and men and minority teachers. Colorado’s average teacher salary has declined from a high of 17th in the nation in 1988-89 ($28,651) to 28th ($48,487) in 2008-09 – compared to the nation average teacher salary of $54,319 in 2008-09. (NEA Rankings of the States)
The most current available comparison is for Fall 2009. According to NEA, the national average teacher salary was $55,400. The Fall 2009 Colorado average teacher salary was $49,183 (Colorado Department of Education).
Professional Pay Resources from NEA
Living Wage Research
Professional Pay for College/University Faculty and Staff
Alternative Pay – In public education, alternative compensation is different from the salary schedule that has traditionally been used to determine compensation for teachers and education support professionals. It is based on criteria other than length of experience and advanced education or training.