Most teacher contracts settle by deadline

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Bargaining has been difficult, but most school districts and local unions settled teacher contracts before Tuesday’s state-imposed deadline, Education Minnesota announced.

At a state Capitol news conference, Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher updated the media on the pace of contract settlements and the issues in the bargaining. At noon Tuesday, 312 of the state’s 346 districts had settlements, with 17 expected to miss the deadline.

If a district misses the deadline, the state imposes a $25-per-pupil penalty in state aid. Districts without a contract included St. Cloud, Faribault, Hutchinson, Red Lake Falls and St. Louis County.

Minneapolis teachers ratified a new contract Monday and St. Paul teachers inked their pact last week.

Negotiations are continuing in those districts that have not settled and no strikes are imminent, the union said.

Tom Dooher
Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher briefed reporters on the status of teacher contract settlements.

Down to the wire
“The fact that so many districts went right down to the wire this year is a symptom of a crisis that has been building for several years – and has come to a head in 2008,” Dooher said. “To put it plainly, Minnesota is not funding its K-12 schools at a level that allows us both to maintain quality programs and to attract and retain quality teachers.”

More so than in recent years, districts and local unions enlisted the help of mediators to reach a settlement, Dooher said. He said inadequate state funding for schools and rising health care, energy and transportation costs have put pressure on districts and made negotiations more difficult.

“We’re looking for the 2008 Legislature and the governor to remedy the problems that led to this situation,” he said.

Lawmakers could consider an increase in the per-pupil formula approved in last year’s budget session to address inflation. In addition, the union will ask lawmakers to pass Education Minnesota’s plan to create one, statewide health insurance pool for all school employees. The Legislature passed the plan in 2007, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed it.

In the contract settlements reached so far, salary increases have averaged 2.39 percent for 2007-08 and 2.36 percent for 2008-09 – below the increases achieved in the previous bargaining round, the union said.

The average teacher salary in Minnesota is $48,489, about $1,000 below the national average, according to figures compiled by the National Education Association.

For more information
Updates on contract settlements and more information on education issues can be found at www.educationminnesota.org

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