Missouri virtual education case talks underway
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Teachers who sued when a Missouri virtual education program stopped operating only four months after it began are negotiating with the state and other authorities to settle the case, attorneys said.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2010 by teachers who started jobs with the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program, or MoVIP, in August 2009 but were out of work by November of that year when the state eliminated funding for the program. The teachers sued the University of Missouri, the Missouri Board of Education, the state and eMints, a program based on the Missouri campus that hired the teachers, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1gyjf9M ).
They are seeking monetary damages for lost pay.
Twenty of the 45 teachers hired by MoVIP have joined the lawsuit, which is one reason attorneys want to settle the lawsuit.
"It's the time that would be involved," said Kelly Mescher, an attorney for the university. "The teachers are all over the state. It's the time, expense and travel."
David Brown, the teachers' attorney, agreed.
"I think both sides are ready now to have the case decided," Brown said
The dispute centers on whether the teachers were "at-will" employees of the university or if their contracts were for a full school year, Brown said.
Brown said at a hearing Monday that while a position offered with an annual salary implies that the teachers were at-will employees, "duration of term" language in the contracts suggested the teachers would be employed until the end of the school year.
Mescher said the teachers were at-will employees because the contract doesn't specify when the school year began or ended. And she said the contracts also allowed the education department to give the university 30-days' notice if it could no longer fund the program.
The university could not pay the teachers without the state funding because it doesn't hire or oversee K-12 teachers, she said.
MoVIP is now a tuition-based K-12 program.
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