Ballots are in the mail to Mpls teachers on new contractby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minneapolis teachers' union sent ballots out Friday to all its members, who will now vote during the next two weeks on a new contract.
The union and district reached agreement on a new two-year deal last month. It doesn't include any cost of living salary increases, but does incorporate payment teachers won from a recent arbitrator's ruling on back pay.
The arbitrator's ruling stemmed from the district's move in 2009 to freeze scheduled pay raises as it dealt with budget problems. Officials also told teachers they wouldn't be able to pay for raises that are part of the state Q Comp performance pay program. The union had argued the district wanted teachers to continue Q Comp even after they knew they couldn't pay the raises.
Union president Lynn Nordgren says she feels the agreed-to deal is the best contract possible, given the current economic times.
"We have a lot of good things in there, we have some things the district was able to get, so we think it was a win-win," she said. "And if we were to vote this contract down, we do not feel we'd get a better contract moving forward."
Nordgren says the union wasn't able to secure mandates on class size and student load for teachers that it had wanted, but she says issues like that will be saved for negotiations on the next contract, which will start in just a few months.
The votes from teachers on the pending contract deal will be counted in two weeks, on Jan. 21.
The Minneapolis school board also must approve the deal, which superintendent Bernadeia Johnson will recommend board members do.
"We have to be collaborating in a more intentional way with our unions to make sure we get what we need to advance student work, while also respecting and valuating the teachers in our organization," Johnson said during a Jan. 3 appearance on MPR's Midmorning.
The district was fined about $800,000 last January for not have the deal in place by a state-mandated deadline.