This section provides a summary overview of the state laws governing collective bargaining and the negotiations of teacher contracts. Please realize that we cannot include all information related to this process here, and that this site is not intended to render legal advice or consultation. You can find more information in Thomas B. Mooney's A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CONNECTICUT SCHOOL LAW (7th ed., 2012).
Connecticut law governs the rights of public and private sector employees to unionize and bargain collectively, whether through state law passed by the legislature or through decisions handed down by the judicial system. Connecticut statutes guide school districts in the bargaining process with local teachers' unions. There is no federal law providing public sector employees the right to bargain collectively.
School districts may not make unilateral changes in conditions of employment when they relate to mandatory subjects of bargaining, even if there is no contract language addressing the matter. There are three main categories of subjects of bargaining: mandatory, permissive, and illegal. Mandatory subjects of bargaining include those topics that relate to “wages, hours, and conditions of employment,” examples of which include salary, benefit, leave provisions, and work load. Permissive subjects of bargaining include topics that parties are not required in negotiation but can opt to negotiate, such as time required for a teacher to be at school after the school day ends. Finally, illegal subjects of bargaining are subjects about which the parties cannot bargain, which are typically subjects already governed by state statute (such as sick leave or attainment of tenure).
Contract negotiations are also affected by two critical concepts that cover what may happen outside of the contract document itself:
Past practice is an existing practice that is not specifically included in the collective bargaining agreement but has been sanctioned by use and acceptance of the parties. Although it may not be in the contract or a mandatory subject of bargaining, it can still limit the employer's ability to implement a new practice unilaterally.
Impact bargaining refers to the practice where, even if it is not required for the parties to negotiate over a contract provision (because it is not a mandatory subject of bargaining), the district and union may be obligated to negotiate over the impact of that contract provision.
Teacher contracts are governed by Sections 10-144 through 10-159 of the Connecticut General Statutes, also known as the TEACHER TENURE ACT
* Mandatory subject of bargaining
** Permissive subject of bargaining (i.e., decision may be made unilaterally by the school district; impact of decision must be negotiated).