CPS hosts public comment for tentative labor agreement

Negotiations involved in lawsuit

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia Public Schools will take public comment on a collective bargaining agreement with teachers reached under a judge's order.

Work on the agreement began after a Boone County judge ordered Columbia Public Schools and an educators union back to the negotiating table after talks fell apart in April.

"It really started with some change in legislation ... which required our existing collective bargaining units to have to certify," district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said. "When that happened, it put a lot of school districts, with their teacher unions, on notice that they needed to complete that certification process."

Judge Jodie Asel's preliminary injunction kept the Columbia Missouri National Education Association on as the collective bargaining unit for CPS teachers, and called the two sides back into bargaining.

CMNEA sued the district when the CPS team said it reached an "impasse" over a prerequisite for collective bargaining.

The district wanted CMNEA to go through a new state requirement in which the State Board of Mediation certifies unions as collective bargaining units. CMNEA opposed the condition after a St. Louis County judge stopped the state board from performing those certifications in March over constitutional concerns.

CMNEA President Kathy Steinhoff was not available to comment on this story.

The Missouri National Education Association filed a suit against having to require units to certify by a set date.

"That has not been litigated yet," Baumstark said. "It has been filed and there's an injunction related to it, so that really put the school district in a difficult position."

Despite the issues, Baumstark said the school district continued with its collective bargaining through the year.

She said the negotiated elements have been brought to the Board of Education and approved.

"The only piece that was not brought for approval was an agreement to collectively bargain because we were sort of in a Catch-22 situation, where you have a state law that, as a government entity, we have to adhere to," she said. "And then you have current litigation and an injunction that's filed that now prevents that particular union or organization from certifying."

Baumstark said the school district is currently waiting on a judgment.

"We need some sort of determination as to what we should be doing as a school district to remain in compliance with the law or to fulfill this other obligation or request," Baumstark said.

The public comment part of the process will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the CPS administration building.

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