Minneapolis district will miss deadline for teacher contractby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis, Minn. — The Minneapolis school district and its teachers' union will miss Friday's state-imposed deadline to have a new contract in place, which will mean an assessed fine of about $800,000.
School Board chair Tom Madden says the district faces deep budget shortfalls and the possibility of state funding cuts (given the state's $1.4 billion shortfall for for FY 2011 and $5.4 billion for FY 2013). The current proposal from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, he says, would add $14 million that the district doesn't have.
"Nobody's got any bad ideas, it's just that there's no money out there," Madden said. He added that negotiations have been amicable.
Madden says while both sides have agreed to salary schedule pay freezes, there's still debate over whether teachers should get what are called 'steps and lanes' - those are essentially pay raises for gaining more experience or education.
"If we were to meet the [union's] demand on money, the result would be the loss of more than 100 teaching positions, even larger class sizes and an ongoing obligation the district cannot afford," noted a letter to the community that was signed by both Madden and Superintendent Bill Green. "In the current economic environment, the issue really is protecting jobs or increasing compensation. It is not possible to do both."
But the union says teachers often spend their own money to get the education, like an extra degree, and they should be compensated for that through 'lanes.'
"We need to be able to attract new people, sustain the young teachers so that they're not living at a poverty level," said union president Lynn Nordgren. "It's not going to be an attractive profession if all you do is work and you don't have enough money to pay your rent."
The union also says the district hasn't paid out money owed on a deal made during last school year and is asking its members to sign an online petition, asking the district to abide by that agreement.
The Jan. 15 deadline for new, two-year contracts is state-imposed; fines are assessed at a rate of $25 per pupil. Every district in Minnesota is on the same schedule for teacher contracts.
Tom Dooher, president of the state's teachers union, Education Minnesota, said in an interview with MPR News last week that he feared the tough economy and tight budgets would result in more districts missing the deadline than ever before.
St. Cloud's union has also indicated it will miss the deadline.