Columbia teachers ask district for more money

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COLUMBIA — Columbia teachers are asking their district for more money, specifically emphasizing the need for an increase in base pay. 

"We want the best and brightest here, our kids deserve it, our families deserve it," said Mary Grupe, the spokeswoman for the Columbia Missouri National Education Association. "We need to increase the compensation across the board."

The Columbia Missouri National Education Association (CMNEA) and the Columbia Board of Education will meet Friday at 5 p.m. to discuss potential base pay increases, increases to the minimum starting salary for new teachers and updating the status of teachers who had their salaries frozen during the 2009-2010 school year, following the recession. 

Dana Clippard, the district’s deputy superintendent, said she expects the two sides to come to an agreement by the end of Friday's collective bargaining session. 

"So we're very close. Any improvement will be helpful. We still will remain one of the lower districts, statewide, for teacher pay," she said. 

The two teams came close to a deal Monday, which Clippard said was the first meeting of the year in which the district negotiated over teacher compensation. CMNEA President Kathy Steinhoff said she agrees the two sides are close, but said there's still work to be done. 

"I think it's close, but we're not quite there yet. It's a very complex issue," Steinhoff said. 

Steinhoff said the team requested a six percent increase to base pay, equaling an additional $1,700 for each teacher. The school board countered with an offer to increase base pay by 5.08 percent, or an additional $1,420. The board also offered to increase the minimum starting salary for new teachers to $35,500. 

Grupe said it's important the school district increases the minimum starting salaries for new teachers in order to stay competitive with other districts. 

"I mean, that's our initial hook," Grupe said. "People don't know how wonderful Columbia is who are just looking from the outside. That could be the deciding factor for people for how much they're going to investigate."

The collective bargaining meeting will be held at the CPS administration building, 1818 W. Worley St.