District leaders confident they're not a targetSTATE BUDGET REACT
Red Wing teachers received a partial raise in the last round of union negotiations. So does that make local school leaders nervous that Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be gunning for them?
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing teachers received a partial raise in the last round of union negotiations.
So does that make local school leaders nervous that Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be gunning for them?
"Not at all," Red Wing School Board Chairman Mitch Boldt said.
After state officials released Minnesota's latest economic projections Wednesday, Pawlenty said tax increases would not be part of a solution to next year's estimated $1.2 billion deficit.
Instead, he hinted at again cutting Local Government Aid and singled out school districts that provided raises to teachers after he asked them to freeze wages.
Pawlenty said he would investigate those instances.
"I saw that the shot was fired across the bow," Boldt said.
But he said that warning shot wasn't directed at districts like Red Wing.
The last bargaining session agreement included one year with what Supt. Stan Slessor called "modest" raises for teachers and no raises in the second year.
Slessor said the district continues, however, to provide so-called automatic "step" and "lane" increases for teachers who receive education credits, among other triggers.
To Rep. Tim Kelly, a former School Board member and district negotiator during the last round of bargaining, the automatic increases mean "flat" shouldn't be used to describe the second contract year.
"That issue gets so clouded," the Red Wing Republican said. "They didn't really settle for zero."
Teachers union negotiator Kirby Hanson declined to comment for the story.
Slessor said some districts have instituted "hard freezes" that eliminate both salary and automatic teacher raises. He declined to say whether such a tack is being discussed during current bargaining talks.
Regardless of what Pawlenty's investigation discovers, Boldt said he hopes education dollars stay off the chopping block.
"Constitutionally, we're right on the top of what our state should consider funding," Boldt said. "The state has an obligation to provide public safety and public education."