Columbia teachers bargain for contract changes

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools officials and the Columbia Missouri National Educators Association met Tuesday evening to discuss potential changes to teacher contracts.

Pay and compensation were major topics of discussion at the meeting.

"Compensation is something were always looking at," CMNEA President Susan McClintic said.

In Missouri, teacher salaries are based on years of experience and amount of college education obtained by a teacher. Over 50 percent of CPS teachers are currently impacted by a raise freeze put into place during the recession, while newer teachers to the district are not impacted by the same salary step adjustments. 

"This is a significant change to their annual income and a dramatic blow to their retirement," McClintic said.

In addition to removing the freeze step limitations, association officials are also looking to increase base salaries by five percent.

CMNEA also put major emphasis on improving working conditions for teachers. Last year, the district limited the association to proposing five changes to working conditions. Officials say this move makes this issue even more important.

"We are in great hopes that because we only are allowed to have five, that all five will be able to be negotiated and put into the contract," McClintic said.

The association is also seeking an increase in the number of personal days allotted for teachers. 

While the district says that many teachers do not use the three days they are currently given, McClintic says all teachers will eventually need this professional courtesy for a wedding, trip to visit family, or time to visit with the grandkids.

"We think that it would be more transparent and equitable for employees and the district if we allow people to accrue five so that if something comes up that you would have the chance to use that and not have to suffer the consequences," McClintic said.

CMNEA based its proposal off findings from a district-wide survey given to all employees. Officials say this helps the association properly gauge the needs of CPS teachers and staff.

Tuesday's meeting concluded with no contract changes. However, district officials did say that nothing in the proposal heard Tuesday night will be rejected.

The two sides will meet again on February 18 to continue discussions on the proposal. 

[This story has been edited for clarity.]