8 CIR 119 (1985)


An Unincorporated Association, |
Petitioner, |
Subdivision, |
Respondent. |


For the Petitioner: Mark D. McGuire

Crosby, Guenzel, Davis, Kessner &


400 Lincoln Benefit Building

Lincoln, Nebraska

For the Respondent: Kelley Baker

Jerry L. Pigsley

Nelson and Harding

500 the Atrium

1200 N Street

P.O. Box 82028

Lincoln, Nebraska 68501-2028

Before: Judges Ashford, Kratz and Mullin


This matter came on for a Section 48-818 determination for the teachers represented by the Benkelman Education Association (hereinafter referred to as the "Association"). The teachers represented by the Association are employed by the School District of Benkelman (hereinafter referred to as the "District"). The District employs 28 teachers and has a student enrollment of approximately 371 students. The Association has petitioned the Commission to set wages and other terms and conditions of employment for the 1984-85 contract year.

The issue for resolution by the Commission is base salary.

The Commission has jurisdiction of the parties and of the subject matter of this action.

1. Statute.

The controlling statute is Section 48-818, which states:

The findings and order or orders may establish or alter the scale of wages, hours of labor, or conditions of employment, or any one or more of the same. In making such findings and order or orders, the Commission of Industrial Relations shall establish rates of pay and conditions of employment which are comparable to the prevalent wage rates paid and conditions of employment maintained for the same or similar work of workers exhibiting like or similar skills under the same or similar working conditions. In establishing wage rates the commission 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 pensions, and the continuity and stability of employment enjoyed by the employees. Any order or orders entered may be modified on the commission's own motion or on application by any of the parties affected, but only upon a showing of a change in the conditions from those prevailing at the time the original order was entered.

2. Comparable School Districts.

To determine prevalent wage rates and conditions of employment, each party presented a number of school districts. The Petitioner presented for comparison purposes the following members of the South Platte Valley Athletic Conference: Chase County High School, Hershey, Sutherland, Chappell, Perkins County High School and Garden County High School. The Respondent's proposed array includes Arapahoe, Cambridge, Culbertson, Medicine Valley, Imperial/Chase County, Republican Valley, Trenton, and Wauneta. Imperial/Chase County includes grade K through 12. Chase County High School presented by the Petitioner is a high school only.

The evidence in the case by both parties as to the compared school districts consists of student enrollment, location, number of miles from Benkelman, athletic conference and community of interest of the districts demonstrated by athletic, academic, and administrative contacts. In addition, Respondent presented evidence of other community contacts not directly related to school district activities. Some of the evidence comparing the school districts in the proposed arrays is set out in Table 1.

In selecting employments for the purpose of comparison in arriving at comparable and prevalent wage rates and conditions of employment, the question is whether, as a matter of fact, the employments selected for comparison are sufficiently similar and have enough like characteristics or qualities to make comparison appropriate in that situation. Lincoln County Sheriff's Employees Association v. County of Lincoln , 216 Neb. 274, 343 N.W.2d 735 (1984); IAFF Local 831 v. City of North Platte , 215 Neb. 89, 337 N.W.2d 716 (1983); Fraternal Order of Police v. County of Adams , 205 Neb. 602, 289 N.W.2d 535, (1980); Omaha Association of Firefighters v. City of Omaha , 194 Neb. 436, 231 N.W.2d 710,(1975); Crete Education Association v. School District of Crete , 193 Neb. 245, 226 N.W.2d 752, (1975).

In selecting an array of school districts for comparison purposes, the Commission has considered, among other factors, the following: student enrollment, geographic proximity, athletic conference membership, and community of interest demonstrated by athletic, scholastic and administrative contacts. Contacts, other than membership in an athletic conference, are considered by the Commission in selecting an array. In considering the evidence in this case as to these factors, the Commission determines that a suitable array for the purposes of Section 48-818 should consist of the following school districts: Chappell, Culbertson, Hershey, Medicine Valley, Republican Valley, Sutherland, Trenton and Wauneta.

The eight school districts selected have student enrollments which are not less than one-half nor more than twice as large as Benkelman. We decline to include Chase County High School (Imperial) because it is significantly larger than the other schools in the arrays proposed by either party. We decline to include Garden County High School (Oshkosh) and Perkins County High School (Grant) because they are class VI schools. The evidence presented indicates that there are sufficient differences in the administration of these schools to exclude them from the array. Furthermore, there are a sufficient number of class III schools for comparison purposes. School District 125 v. Curtis Education Association , 7 CIR 96, 100 (1983); Republican Valley Education Association v. School District , 109 R., 7 CIR 58, 61-62 (1983).

The other school districts not selected for comparison were excluded because of the number of athletic, academic, and administrative contacts with Benkelman.

3. Base Salary and Determination as to "Overall Compensation".

The only issue in dispute is base salary.

In placing teachers on its salary schedule, Benkelman gives teachers credit for both the approved graduate and undergraduate hours they have earned after receiving their bachelor's degrees. The District offered evidence purporting to show that the compared to districts give teachers credit for only the graduate hours they have earned after their bachelor's degrees. Though the District is not seeking a change in Benkelman's current policy, it argues that in making our base salary determination, the Commission should place Benkelman teachers on the compared to school districts' salary schedules based only on the graduate hours they have earned. We disagree.

By giving teachers credit for approved undergraduate hours, the Benkelman School District has made the determination that both graduate and undergraduate classes can benefit the district. Other school districts may have made different determinations. Nevertheless, the actions of Benkelman's teachers in selecting post-baccalaureate classes have, without doubt, been influenced by the long-established policy at Benkelman of giving teachers salary schedule credit for taking certain undergraduate classes with the District's prior approval. It is impossible for us to now determine whether any individual teacher would have requested approval for the undergraduate classes he or she has taken, had that teacher known that the District would later seek a reduction in base salary for the undergraduate hours the teacher earned with the District's prior approval. We will not now penalize teachers who took undergraduate classes with the belief, fostered by the District at the time, that they would actually receive a higher salary for doing so. See Winnebago Educ. Ass'n v. School Dist. of Winnebago , 8 CIR 138, 147(1985); compare Barbee v. City of Omaha , 199 Neb. 644, 646-47, 260 N.W.2d 491, 493 (1977).

Table 2 sets forth a comparison of teacher compensation at the compared to school districts. The figures listed have been adjusted for differences in credit allowed for outside teaching experience and for differences in contract days.

In establishing rates of pay and conditions of employment, §48-818 requires that the Commission of Industrial Relations take into consideration the overall compensation received by employees. Applying the statutory criteria of §48-818 to the evidence in this case, we find that the base salary for Benkelman's teachers for the 1984-85 contract year should be $12,935.00. This represents a standard salary schedule amount of $480,043.72 (base salary of $12,935.00 multiplied by a staff index factor of 37.112) plus fringe benefits of $47,522.16, which makes total teacher compensation for the purposes of these calculations: $527,565.88.


1. That the base salary for the District's teachers shall be $12,935.00, effective at the beginning of the 1984-85 school contract year;

2. That the salary adjustments resulting from this Order for the portion of the school contract year already elapsed shall be paid promptly following the entry of these Findings and Order.

All judges assigned to the panel in this case join in the entry of these Findings and Order.

Entered September 5, 1985.