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Pay freeze for school employees passes committee vote

Red Wing school employees wouldn't receive a pay raise for two years under a bill that passed a senate committee vote 9-7 last week.

The bill faces at least one more committee hearing before it reaches a full Senate vote.

Brad Johnson, Red Wing School District's finance director, said if the bill passes, it would free up about $300,000 to $400,000 in the district's budget.

Given what Johnson calls the "frightening" $6 billion state deficit, he says they are keeping a close eye on the school's finances.

School board members and administrators from other districts have testified in favor of the bill, saying it would provide them more flexibility to deal with financial problems they expect in the next couple of years.

But, Kirby Hanson, president of the teacher's union Education Minnesota Red Wing, says his biggest concern is that the bill would take bargaining leverage off the table for teachers.

He says that in past years, the union and the district have been able to negotiate very well. For example, for two of the past four years, teachers have agreed to a base pay freeze to balance out the rising costs of health insurance, Hanson said.

Now, he says he fears the bill would make negotiating more difficult.

"I would hate for the umbrella of this law, if adopted, to limit our options of bargaining a fair and equitable settlement," Hanson said.

Supt. Stan Slessor said he would rather keep that power to negotiate as well.

"I prefer the local control of each school board to sit down to negotiate," he said.

Don Davis contributed to this report.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.