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Is Collective Bargaining Good for Missouri Public Schools?

February 20, 1998
By: Megan Lindsay
MDN Columbia Bureau

A Missouri senate bill would allow teachers to negotiate contracts through a third party rather than directly to a school board.

Louetta Floyd is a first grade teacher at Steadly Elementary in Carthage, Missouri. She is a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association (M-S-T-A) and once taught in Kansas -- a collective bargaining state.

Floyd says, "Collective bargaining causes teachers and administration to air out dirty laundry. This sets a poor example for students. If we strike, children should have the right to say, 'No, I won't do that' in your class."

M-S-T-A spokesman Bruce Moe says collective bargaining would threaten community control over local school districts. Moe fears parents, teachers and administrators would be at the mercy of mediator.

Moe says, "A school board cannot pass a raise in costs directly on to the consumer. This is a community issue."

Tim Callahan is a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. His organization feels that collective bargaining may be an appropriate system for auto or steel workers, but not for teachers.

Callahan says, "A child's mind is too important to bargain over. We believe educators should put kids first, create a positive atmosphere, and be professional. This does not happen in a collective bargaining system."

The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee is working on bill 471. The first hearing occurred in January at the state capitol.

The Missouri Education Association is in favor of the bill. Vicki Shouse is the president of the Columbia chapter of M-E-A and is a special education teacher at Parkade Elementary.

She says collective bargaining would unite teachers and the school board, "Many feel like it's teachers against the school board. With collective bargaining, teachers are a part of the team."

Alexia Boehms (uh-LEX-ah beam) is a learning disabilities teacher at West Junior High School and the former president of the Columbia Chapter of the M-E-A. She is interested in negotiating such issues as working conditions, overtime, and class size under a new collective bargaining policy.

She says teacher contracts in the Columbia school district are vague. Boehms feels teachers should have more control over what they do and where it is done.

Boehms says, "There are honors english classes at the junior high with more than thirty students. As a parent and a teacher; I don't see this to be a good situation for anyone."

Steve Wollmer is a spokesman for the National Education Association in Washington D.C. Wollmer says teachers who are part of a movement to improve professionl development feel collective bargaining is a tool in their favor.

Wollmer says, "A good number of states have collective bargaining legislation for teachers. Interestingly, student performance is higher in these states."

State Senator John Schneider is the sponsor of the bill. He is a Democrat from Florissant, Missouri. Schneider has worked with unions in the state on legislative language.

One of his staff, Donna Mueller, says, "He believes union employees should have the right to negotiate with employers. Without the right to meet and confer; employees are at the mercy of their employer."

Missouri public workers will have to wait for a senate vote this spring. A vote -- that could change their future employment rights.