detective-flashlight-260x300-8575428Throughout New York State, no public document has a greater impact on tax burdens and educational performance than the local teacher union contract.

Yet few school districts have made any effort to share these contracts with taxpayers — and so the Empire Center has stepped into the breach by doing it for them.

Since 2008, we have been systematically requesting copies of teacher union contracts from each of the state’s nearly 700 school districts, and posting the documents on our transparency website. We have also collected and posted individual employment contracts between school districts and their (generally well compensated) superintendents.  These documents make up the largest online repository of New York school district labor agreements available anywhere.

Salary schedules and benefits naturally get most attention when teacher contracts are negotiated. However, these collective bargaining agreements—ranging, in print form, from slender to voluminous—also detail work rules, disciplinary procedures and other aspects of the relationship between the teachers’ union and the district.

For example, a random look at some of the teacher contracts on the Empire Center website reveals that:

  • The Indian River School District teachers union contract offers certain employees up to 15 annual “vacation days” – in addition to normal school vacations.
  • The Syracuse, Rochester and Yonkers districts, among others, are required to collect money for union political action committees.
  • The Rochester City School District is required to provide “daily courier service” between the teachers union’s office and the schools.
  • The Brentwood Union Free School District does not allow middle and high school teachers to voluntarily teach an extra class for extra pay if there’s enough work to justify hiring another full-time union member, even at greater expense.
  • Buffalo teachers, whose health plan includes cosmetic surgery, are not required to make any contribution to their health care premium.
  • The Yonkers school district must limit the amount of bulletin board space for any teachers’ organization other than the teachers’ union.

The contracts database can be accessed here.

About the Author

Ken Girardin

Ken Girardin is the Empire Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Read more by Ken Girardin

You may also like

Thanks to Unions, NYC’s School Reopening Deal Was Costly and Educationally Hazardous

New York City schools reopened this fall under terms dictated by the city's teacher and principal unions. Now, as city schools close -- once more at the unions' behest -- the city is left with thousands of extra teachers hi Read More

With State Officials’ Freeze Through 2023, More Reason To Ice All Government Pay

In light of the state government’s “extremely precarious financial position,” New York’s state lawmakers, judges, statewide elected officials and certain gubernatorial appointees should not receive pay raises in the Read More

On Measuring School Quality, Education Week Misses the Mark

Education Week’s rankings do not measure what counts. New York’s substandard achievement coupled with highest-in-the-nation spending and above-average wealth means that when it comes to school quality, New York fails to pass the mark. Read More

State Forces School Districts To Give Raises—And Layoffs

Months of bad decisions and inaction by New York state officials have put school districts in the awkward position of having to give pay raises to most teachers while laying off others. Read More

Even After Aid Cut, New York Will Spend Most on Education

If New York was a country in 2016—the most recent year for global education spending data—it would have boasted the highest per pupil expenditure in the world, even after subtracting 20 percent of state aid. Read More

Union pay remains non-“prevailing”

Barely one in five private construction workers in New York State was covered by a union contract last year, according to newly released statistics that call into question a state public works "prevailing wage" mandate that assumes 30 percent union coverage of building trades occupations across New York. Read More

Carve-outs prevail in “wage” bill

A “prevailing wage” expansion in Governor Cuomo’s budget is riddled with carve-outs—and new discretionary power for the governor. Read More

“LIFO” strikes again

Rochester schools are laying off 152 teachers, but there’s little doubt which educators are on the chopping block. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.