Columbia School Board weighs collective bargaining options

Monday, September 12, 2011 | 11:26 p.m. CDT; updated 8:46 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

COLUMBIA — Members of the Columbia School Board were divided Monday on whether to adopt a collective bargaining policy or to keep the "meet and confer" system currently in place.  

The discussion began with a report from Columbia branches of the Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri State Teachers Association, which each represent roughly one-third of the teachers in the district. The remaining third of Columbia's teachers are unaffiliated. 

Susan McClintic, president of the Columbia education association and a second-grade teacher at Alpha Heart Lewis Elementary, showed support for the first proposed collective bargaining policy. 

This policy would allow one bargaining representative to speak for all teachers and district employees. Most likely, the representative would be from one of the two associations.

"We believe this policy is the best practice, as it mirrors what most voting Americans are familiar with — a one-step election on who should represent them in a collectively bargained, binding agreement," McClintic said.

McClintic added that there is no precedent of a policy like the second resulting in a successful agreement. 

This second policy, which allows for multiple representatives, is one that isn't commonly used by districts across the country, Superintendent Chris Belcher said in July.

This model, which would allow for multiple representatives during the bargaining process, is one that teacher association president Kari Schuster would support if the current "meet and confer" method is changed. During this process district officials confer with teachers but ultimately make decisions about employment conditions.

Belcher said the second version could be legally challenged if representatives are unable to reach an agreement on bargaining conditions. 

But board member Jan Mees "adamantly" opposed the exclusive representation model outlined in the first proposal on Monday night. 

Mees said exclusive bargaining "is not Columbia Public Schools, not good for the children" and strongly supports the second version, if a policy must be chosen.

When board members opened the floor for public discussion, teachers from each association voiced their opinions.

Members of the local branch of the Missouri State Teachers Association expressed concern about the lack of voice among both organizations if the first option is allowed. 

Missouri National Education Association members stated the need for a strong, unified voice among teachers in the district, which they believe the first policy option will allow. 

The next meeting will be at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 22.

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