September 10, 2012

Searchable: Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreements in Missouri’s Public Schools

In 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of American Federation of Teachers v. Ledbetter. The case is pending a decision as of July 12, 2012. At issue is whether a public school district has a legal “duty” to collectively bargain in “good faith” with a teachers’ union. Before addressing the specifics, some historical context is needed.

In 1947, the Missouri Supreme Court, in City of Springfield v. Clouse, held that the city of Springfield, Mo., could not collectively bargain employment contracts with public employee unions. The reason was twofold. First, the Missouri Constitution’s clause guaranteeing the right to collectively bargain did not apply to public employees. Second, public entities such as cities act on behalf of the general public and therefore, only elected legislators, as the people’s representatives, may set the terms of employment for public employees. Non-elected public officers lacked the requisite authority to collectively bargain with labor unions.

Fast forward to 2007. In Independence-NEA v. Independence School District, the Missouri Supreme Court partially overruled Clouse and held that the Missouri Constitution’s collective bargaining clause extended to public school teachers. The court rested its opinion in large part on the modern trend recognizing a legislature’s power to delegate its decision-making authority to administrative agencies. Because a legislature “may” delegate its power to negotiate and agree to the terms of public employment, the constitution’s collective bargaining guarantee was held to extend to all public employees, including teachers.

If due respect is to be paid to the legislature, then the following question naturally arises: Did the Missouri General Assembly in fact delegate this authority to public school districts? And how can one reconcile the majority’s broad recognition of the power to delegate with its stern rejection of the legislature’s discretionary choice to exclude public school teachers from its grant of collective bargaining rights?

Specifically, the Missouri General Assembly enacted the Public Sector Labor Law in 1965. The Act empowers certain public employees to join labor organizations for the purpose of negotiating terms of employment. But the legislature expressly excluded school teachers from its provisions. By exercising its power to delegate, the legislature “selectively” delegated its powers by withholding statutory collective bargaining rights from teachers. One may ask whether the power to delegate implies the power to withhold.

For now, the law regarding a school district’s legal obligation to collectively bargain is in flux. The trial court in Ledbetter held that school districts had no duty to bargain. The court in Independence clearly supported the constitutional right for teachers to collectively bargain, but further held that school districts are under no obligation to agree to contractual terms that the teachers’ bargaining agent proposes. If the Supreme Court in Ledbetter adds a good faith requirement, school districts will suffer a diminished right, a right recognized in Independence, to reject union proposals.

In light of the current state of flux, and the importance of this issue for Missouri taxpayers and schools, the Show-Me Institute has begun gathering and reporting collective bargaining agreements and related agreements between school districts and certified staff governing the terms of employment for teachers.

We sent letters to the largest 100 districts in Missouri requesting all such agreements. Agreements include formal collective bargaining agreements and other agreements such as closure documents. The common denominator, however, is the written expression of the terms of employment between a district and its certified teaching staff.

The responses we received are searchable below. Moreover by simply double-clicking on a document the entire document is viewable. We welcome your feedback.

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