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Bargaining Reminder: Evaluation, Merit Pay Not Allowed in Teacher Contracts

Kacie Kefgen

By Kacie Kefgen, MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations and Legal Services

DashBoard, May 24, 2017

If you are in the midst of bargaining a new teacher contract, it is important to remember that certain topics that would seem logical to include in a teacher contract are actually prohibited subjects of bargaining under the Public Employment Relations Act (MCL 423.215).

Perhaps, for instance, you are considering increasing teacher compensation, but only if a teacher has a certain effectiveness rating?

That sounds like a reasonable approach to reward teachers for their positive impacts on student learning. What could be wrong with that?

It is very likely that such contract language would be a prohibited subject of bargaining and unenforceable. And, if some teachers were denied increases under the language and those teachers challenged the provision, the district could be on the hook for back pay and legal fees.

Why?

PERA states that districts have full discretion over certain potential bargaining subjects, and they may not bargain over those items or agree to include them in a teacher contract. Here are two PERA sections that matter here:

(l) Decisions about the development, content, standards, procedures, adoption, and implementation of a public school employer's performance evaluation system . . . decisions concerning the content of a performance evaluation of an employee under those provisions of law, or the impact of those decisions on an individual employee or the bargaining unit.

(o) Decisions about the development, content, standards, procedures, adoption, and implementation of [merit pay] . . . decisions about how an employee performance evaluation is used to determine performance-based compensation under . . . MCL 380.1250, decisions concerning the performance-based compensation of an individual employee, or the impact of those decisions on an individual employee or the bargaining unit.

Remember also that under MCL 380.1250, districts “shall implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation . . .”

So, state statute requires districts to have a merit pay system in place, but districts may not bargain over it or include it in their teacher contracts.

If you have questions about this or other labor issues, please contact MASB at 517.327.5914 or your retained legal counsel.

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