2 CIR 66 (1973)



Plaintiff, |
NEBRASKA, also known as |
SCHOOL, a political |
subdivision, and SCHOOL |
known as VALENTINE |
a political subdivision, |
Defendants. |

Filed February 16, 1973


This is an action to establish wages and conditions of employment pursuant to Section 48-818 R.R.S. (Cum. Supp. 1972).

On January 15, 1972, Plaintiff and Defendants entered into a recognition agreement (included in Exhibit No. 14), whereby the Defendants recognized the Plaintiff as the representative of its teacher employees for the purpose of collective bargaining. Negotiation meetings were conducted on February 1, 9, 16, and March 1 and 8, 1972. On March 8, the parties reached impasse with the following terms and conditions of employment still in dispute:

1. Salary Schedule;

2. Increased experience credit on salary schedule;

3. Hospital insurance premium contribution by school district;

4. Grievance procedure.

The Defendants, being Class I and VI school districts, are not included within the provisions of section 79-1287 et. seq., R.S. Supp., the Nebraska Teachers Professional Negotiations Act, and this dispute, therefore, was brought directly to the Court of Industrial Relations.

In its answer, the Defendants allege that this Court does not have jurisdiction because the Court of Industrial Relations act is unconstitutional. This argument is rejected on the basis of the Nebraska Supreme Court decision in School District of Seward Education Association vs. School District , 188 Neb. 773,199 N.W.2d 752 (1972). We find that an industrial dispute exists, as defined by Section 48-801 R.S. Supp., 1969, and this Court has jurisdiction.

The evidence shows that Plaintiff's original and only proposal was a base salary of $6,600, a salary index figure of 4% horizontal and 4% vertical (4 x 4), full health insurance benefits, and the addition of one vertical step on each column of the salary schedule.

Defendants, who negotiated as a joint committee (and the parties agree that the Court should consider Defendants jointly and apply identical rates to each), countered with an initial offer of a base salary of $6,600, a salary index of $200 for each horizontal step and $250 for each vertical step, and $9 a month in health insurance. Defendants later increased this offer to the following: a base salary of $6,600, a salary index of $200 for each horizontal step and $250 for each vertical step, $11 a month health insurance, and the addition of one vertical step to each column of the salary schedule.

The grievance procedure, though listed as a matter in dispute in the petition, was not involved in any of the evidence presented and the Court was advised by counsel that the parties had agreed to work this out among themselves, separate from this proceeding.

Plaintiff's evidence included a booklet which illustrates the salary schedules for 1972-73 for all reporting Nebraska school districts (Exhibit No. 5), and an exhibit which makes a specific comparison of the salary and fringe benefit data of Defendant school districts and other schools in the Rangeland athletic conference (Exhibit No. 4). Valentine is a member of both of these athletic conferences. Plaintiff witness, Richard Halama, testified, as he has in other cases of this nature, that the work, skill, and working conditions of all teachers in the State of Nebraska are similar, and Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider certain criteria it has previously used in establishing the doctrine of comparability, namely the use of total compensation of comparable school districts, use of the common athletic conference, and use of the approximate mid-point of the comparable schools. Plaintiff argues that the statute (48-818) should be interpreted to say that all teachers in Nebraska (or New York City, though there is no evidence of the work, skill, and working conditions of teachers in New York City), are comparable, having similar work, skill, and working conditions. Plaintiff does not, however, offer any example as to how this suggested interpretation would apply to the instant facts. The court has decided that under the evidence presented in this case it will continue to use the criteria established in the previous decisions in its application of the language of Section 48-818.

The total compensation criterion originated in the case of Milford Education Association vs. School District of Milford , Case No. 43, order entered on July 5, 1971. The Court's decision in this regard was based on the Plaintiff's petition and prayer, its evidence, and the language of the statute. The Court held as follows:

"Since the present case was initiated in behalf of all teachers in the Milford School District, and since all of the teachers are paid on the same index schedule and receive the same insurance benefits, it is the total Milford teacher compensation which should be compared with the compensation schedules and benefits of other comparable school districts. This is in compliance with the sentence in Section 48-818 that 'In establishing wage rates the Court shall take into consideration the overall compensation presently received by the employees, having regard not only to wages for time actually worked, but also to wages for time not worked, including vacations, holidays, and other excused time, and all benefits received, including insurance and pension, and the continuity and stability of employment enjoyed by employees'".

The same rule was immediately applied in the case of Centennial Education Association vs. School District No. 67-R of Seward County, Nebraska , Case No. 44, order entered on August 18, 1971, and the total compensation doctrine has been used in all Section 48-818 cases which have subsequently been presented to this Court.

Though Plaintiff argues that the statute requires that a comparison be made with teacher wages and conditions, rather than compensation by employers, the total compensation doctrine adopted by this Court does, of course, use teacher wages and conditions and merely totals them, rather than making the comparison on an individual basis.

So long as there is only evidence of total teacher compensation and its allocation on the basis of experience and educational advancement, as is the case here, this Court will continue to apply the total-compensation criterion in determining what is "comparable to the prevalent."

The "approximate mid-point" criterion was first applied in the Centennial case, supra, where the Court, after an examination of all the evidence, established a base salary and index increments for the Centennial teachers, and said:

"This places Centennial at the approximate mid-point in terms of overall compensation among the spectrum of the comparable school districts shown in the evidence."

While Plaintiff objects to the use of the mid-point, it does not offer an alternative, and there is nothing in the evidence presented in this case which would suggest any other formula as more nearly compatible with the word "prevalent" as it is used in the statute.

Plaintiff's other suggestion, that the skills, work, and working conditions in all accredited schools in Nebraska are comparable, is also rejected. We have concluded that there is not sufficient evidence in the record of this case to show that the skill, work, and particularly the working conditions are the same or similar in all the accredited Nebraska school districts.

The criteria used by this Court in the past in determining what constitutes comparable to the prevalent will be used and applied in this case. This means that we will include community of interest, Fremont Education Association vs. the School District of Fremont , Case No. 50, order entered on March 14, 1972, geographic proximity, Fremont , supra, general cooperation among school districts, Hastings Education Association vs. the School District of Hastings , Case No. 42, order entered March 14, 1972, and athletic conference, School District of Seward Education Association vs. School District , Case No. 34, order entered August 9, 1971.

Using these criteria, the Defendant contends that the Rangeland conference schools should be used for comparison to Defendant school districts pursuant to Section 48-818 inasmuch as the schools in this athletic conference compete in athletic events, compete against each other in academic subjects, have a geographic similarity, participate jointly in teacher work shops, meet with each other for the purposes of discussing teacher negotiations, and have similar physical facilities, equipment, and overall size. Defendant opposes the comparison with Western conference schools on the basis that they are larger schools (some of them were previously Class A schools), and occupy different geographic areas. The Defendant witness testified that Valentine was unable to compete athletically with the Western conference schools and was considering resigning from that conference for that reason.

Plaintiff argues, however, that if we intend to continue with the criteria used in previous cases, the comparable school districts should be the schools in both the Rangeland and the Western athletic conference. If the circle of comparability is to include athletic conference schools, then they must all be included, according to Plaintiff.

The Court concludes that the comparable school districts to Defendant herein are the Rangeland conference schools. This conclusion is based on the common athletic conference, the similar size of these schools, the geographic similarity, the community of interest as illustrated by participation in yearbook workshops, annual meetings, meetings conducted for the purpose of discussing teacher negotiations, and the similarity of facilities and equipment. We reject the use of the Western conference schools as comparable because of their greater size, different location, and lack of community of interest other than the mutual athletic competition which, according to the evidence, is rather one-sided and may be shortly terminated. In the Hastings case, supra, the Court, for reasons similar to those applied herein, also rejected the consideration of a second athletic conference.

Having determined the comparable school districts, we next turn to the issue of whether the salary schedule determined by this Court should include dollar increments or percentage increments for the horizontal and vertical steps. In this regard, the Plaintiff contends that of all the school district salary schedules used by both parties for comparison, only two have dollar increments, and therefore, the prevalent method of structuring salary schedules is the use of the percentage increments. Defendant contends that the flat dollar index increments are now in effect in the Defendant districts and were specifically negotiated by the parties for use during the 1971-72 school year. It further contends that the school district made some substantial concessions in order to negotiate the change to dollar increments and that the dollar increment system is preferable to the district because it is easier to understand and easier to administer.

The statute (48-818) requires that court-established wages and conditions be "comparable to the prevalent". Clearly the prevalent method of increasing salaries based on experience and educational advancement in the Rangeland conference schools is through percentage increments, rather than dollar increments, and we can only conclude, therefore, that percentage increments must be applied in this case.

Thus, using the Rangeland conference schools for comparison purposes and applying percentage index increments, what salary schedule must be determined by this Court in order to place Defendants at the approximate mid-point in terms of overall compensation among the spectrum of the comparable school districts?

Based on the most prevalent practice among Rangeland conference schools, the Court has concluded that there should be ten experience advancement steps, rather than nine, and $11 single, $14.75 family, per month paid for health and accident insurance.

Using the ten vertical steps and the increase to $11 per month for insurance, we have considered several possible formulas ($6500, 4 x 4, $6500, 4 x 3, $6500, 3 x 4, and $6600, 3.5 x 3.5) which could fall within the mid-point zone of comparability and have concluded that the $6600, 3.5 x 3.5 schedule establishes most clearly wages and conditions which are comparable to the prevalent wages and conditions of the teachers in the comparable school districts.

If the teachers from Valentine were placed on the salary schedules of the other Rangeland conference schools, the total compensation figures would be as follows:

Atkinson $429,834

O'Neill 425,948

Ainsworth 425,561

Gordon 422,992

Bassett 416,855

Chadron 415,610

Rushville 396,927

Crawford 378,432

The $6600, 3.5 x 3.5, schedule produces a total compensation of $417,090 which puts the Defendants in the middle of the nine conference schools and comes closet to the prevalent salary schedule characteristics of the comparable schools.


The scale of wages for certificated teachers employed by the Defendant school districts for the 1972-73 school year shall be computed in accordance with a salary schedule having a base salary of $6600, index increments of 3.5% vertically and 3.5% horizontally, with ten vertical columns and the same number of horizontal columns and the same number of horizontal columns as was contained in the 1971-72 salary schedule, and $11 single, $14.75 family, per month for health and accident insurance. Except as specified in this paragraph, the other aspects of compensation and terms and conditions of employment presently set or agreed upon for 1972-73 shall remain unchanged by this order.

Judge Nielsen did not participate in the trial or the decision in this case.