By LESLEY TOTH
Mille Lacs County Times
According to Education Minnesota, the state teacher’s union, about one-third of school districts have finalized their contracts with educators. That’s down substantially compared to the same time last year, when about half of districts had signed off on contracts. And many say it’s because this Saturday’s date is less meaningful than it was in 2011.
Milaca ISD 912 is among those districts that have yet to finalize its contract, but both administration and teacher representatives expect one to be ratified within the next week or two.
Minnesota school districts have been fined more than $3.5 million since 2006 for failing to settle teacher contracts by the former deadline of January 15, according to a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota analysis.
The deadline initially was imposed because legislators didn’t want teachers working well into a biennium without a contract. And to encourage districts to settle contracts early, the state imposed a fine for missing that deadline. This penalty resulted in a one-time reduction in state aid of $25 per pupil. Larger districts faced larger fines, with some paying as much as $800,000 in a single biennium for missing the deadline.
The 2011 Legislature dropped both the January 15 deadline and the financial penalty.
Education Minnesota favored the deadline, but the Minnesota School Board association sought its repeal, claiming the financial penalty unfairly punished districts.
In Milaca, the deadline and the financial penalty haven’t been much of an issue in years past.
“Typically, the board here in Milaca does want to settle well before January, regardless of the deadline being in place or not,” said lead negotiator and high school math teacher Joe Wenner. “It has really never been an issue.”
For the full story, see the Thursday, Jan. 12 print edition of the Times.