UPDATE: Teacher's union says approving new CPS contracts was "take it or leave it"

CPS Board of Education approves employee contracts for next school year

COLUMBIA, Mo. - UPDATE: ABC 17 News spoke with Kathy Steinhoff, the president of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association on Wednesday.

She clarified that while the representatives from the union voted to approve the new salary schedule for the 2018-2019 school year, they weren't satisfied with the end result and felt like they were forced into signing off on it.

"[The district] left us in a take it or leave it situation," she said Wednesday.

CMNEA is on board with the district when it comes to working toward the model salary schedule, but Steinhoff said the transition should be more equitable. New teachers received a large raise last year, and this year middle tier teachers received it. 

This comes from the board collapsing the salary schedule "columns" or years of experience in order to get to that model salary schedule. The union doesn't agree with the swings in raise amounts over the past few years, Steinhoff said. 

"Our opinion wasn't valued in how to get to that model salary schedule," she said. "There are portions of the schedule that have a lot of money put into it. We think there was a better way to get there."

She also said it's an exagerration to say some teachers "didn't get a raise" until this year.

"For whatever reason, they weren't moving over on the salary schedule and they were stagnant," said Steinhoff.

Teachers continue to be frustrated with the district, and feel like the late in the game change in chief financial officers when Anna Munson resigned didn't help the situation. This idea for the salary schedule that got passed was introduced late in the collective bargaining season, Steinhoff said, and there wasn't really time to convince the board otherwise.

"I don't think the board is really giving voice to the teacher's concerns," said Steinhoff. "I don't think they're truly valuing what we see are problems in our district and problems with our working conditions."

One teacher ABC 17 News spoke with anonymously Tuesday said she was considering leaving the district due to some of the confusion over the way the salary schedule is being worked out, and some other frustrations with curriculum. 

ORIGINAL STORY: The Columbia Public Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday morning to approve employee contracts for next school year.

Members also voted to approve employee salary increases. 

According to spokesperson Michelle Baumstark, about $3.7 million in employee compensation for next year was approved. 

The average increase was about 4.8 percent per employee.

"This is significant because the average increase for those not employed by Columbia Public Schools is between 1 and 3 percent," Baumstark said in an email.  "More than 60 percent of that amount is going toward teacher salary increases."

Some educators have said that the 2018-2019 school year raises aren't fair for everyone.

One teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she was angry when she found out her raise would be significantly less than other teachers.

Baumstark said some of the newer teachers did see smaller raises this year because the district is trying to get to a model salary schedule.

In 2015, representatives from the district identified a certain level they wanted to get to with teacher salaries that would make them fair for everyone. They do this by collapsing columns, or years of experience, within the schedule each collective bargaining season.

But getting to that model salary schedule is several years off so while the district is in the middle of closing that gap, there will be some fluctuations in pay raises.

Last school year, after voters approved a 2016 tax levy, many newer teachers received significant raises, but some teachers with years of experience saw their salaries stay stagnant.

Now, teachers who had previously hit the max on the old salary schedule could see thousands in a raise with the new one.

"Some of them have not seen pay increases for ten years," said Baumstark. "It's almost a correction of where we had been previously."

The teacher ABC 17 News spoke with said most of the teachers are on the younger side with minimal experience.

"Most of the teacher's feel like they're getting a cut from their raises," she said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Baumstark said they worked hard to make sure no one's salary decreased during the transition to the new schedule design.

"I think [the board] worked very, very hard to find a way to honor all of our employees." Baumstark said.

The teacher ABC 17 News spoke with said she understands the district's vision of bringing more equity to the pay schedule and has sat down with representatives from the teachers union, but said the reason behind the changes are confusing and have led to frustration from teachers.

"I think it's fair to say we definitely need more guidance about the whole process in general and why they would see it as fair," she said. "Because there's so many changes in the district and the curriculum, it just makes me adamant about searching for a job someplace else."

The Columbia Missouri National Educator's Association, which represents the teachers in the collective bargaining process, had representatives sign off on the agreement at the end of last week.



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