As schools open across New York State this week, much of what happens in the classroom will be affected by contracts between school districts and unions representing their teachers.

Teacher contracts typically determine compensation and work conditions, including base salaries, step raises and extra pay for longevity or extra duties such as coaching; health insurance and other benefits; and evaluation and disciplinary procedures. Some contracts also touch on other issues important to parents and students, including the length of the school day; class sizes; and student discipline.

For the first time, parents, taxpayers and the news media now have easy access to teacher contracts for nearly all of New York’s 698 school districts and 35 BOCES districts—thanks to the Empire Center’s new transparency website, Teacher contracts and employment contracts for almost every school superintendent in the state can be downloaded from the site.

The contracts show how salaries for teachers vary dramatically across the state. For example, the base salary for teachers in the Herricks Union Free School District (Nassau County) ranges from $53,000 to $121,165. In Long Lake Central School District, teacher base salaries range from $38,141 to $69,486. The base salaries do not include any extra pay for longevity, supervisory duties, coaching sports or advising the debate team or student newspaper.

Teacher contracts also can impose restrictions that ultimately affect the schedules of parents and families. For example, some contracts (such as that of the Amherst Central School District in western New York) stipulate that high school students can be dismissed early so teachers can attend faculty meetings once a month. Other contracts effectively require that teacher-parent conferences be held during the day—which means working parents must take time off from their own jobs to discuss their childrens’ progress in school.

The Empire Center launched July 31. In addition to teacher and superintendent contracts, it offers searchable databases of the following public information:

  • the entire payroll of more than 263,000 state government employees, cross-referenced by name, title, branch of government and agency;
  • operating expenditures by both houses of the New York State Legislature; and
  • the Legislature’s pork-barrel “member items” spending for 2008-09.

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