The nation's two largest teacher unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) encourage their affiliates, including the MEA and Michigan Federation of Teachers (MFT), to use standard or "pattern" contract language in their collective bargaining agreements. Such pattern language appears in the collective bargaining agreements of all 583 Michigan school districts.

"Even without the rigors of bargaining, superintendents can seal their own doom through neglect of faculty attitudes. . . . How do they protect the public from the unions without making themselves the sacrificial lambs?" These pattern agreements, however, do not adequately meet the unique educational needs of individual schools and districts. For example, what may be an appropriate contract provision in an inner-city Detroit school may not be helpful or right for a rural district in the Upper Peninsula.