Minneapolis teachers would earn at least 2 percent increases for this year and next under a proposed labor deal that has yet to be acted on by either side.
"It's pretty much what the board was comfortable with," said Rebecca Gagnon, who chairs the school board's finance committee.
Those increases represent salary scale adjustments, before any additional money a teacher would earn from moving up the pay scale for additional experience or education. The district negotiated cutbacks in the rate at which a teacher gains those increases in the current contract.
That pay raise would be the first general increase in the cost of living granted to teachers in at least four years. However, many teachers saw their pay increase by $3,090 in the last contract in exchange for increasing the length of the school year by four days and the non-teaching part of their school day by 15 minutes.
The size of the salary hike is the only concrete detail to emerge since a tentative agreement was announced Saturday night. The district said Tuesday it doesn't plan to release terms until at least after the board considers the deal in private next Tuesday, and then only if it finds the deal satisfactory. In contrast, the St. Paul district and its teacher union released a summary of highlights three days after reaching a deal. That two-year contract included a general increases of 2.25 percent and 2 percent.
The Minneapolis board doesn't expect to vote on the proposal until sometime in April, after a teacher vote the district said it expects to be held during the first week of April after spring break. That couldn't be confirmed with the teacher federation immediately.
The size of the raises was disclosed, perhaps inadvertently, when a member of a board committee sought assurance that they would fit within next year's proposed $541 million budget.
Minneapolis teachers are paid an average salary of $65,224 this school year, according to data posted by the Minnesota Department of Education. That's third highest in the state, behind St. Paul's $65,840 and $67,848 in the Rosemount district. A district's average is affected not only by its salary scale, but also by the relative level of experience and education of its teaching staff.
The current Minneapolis pay scale starts a teacher with a bachelor degree and no teaching experience at $39,147, and tops out at just under $98,000, a level that few teachers reach.
With agreement last week on a new St. Paul teacher contract and progress Thursday in the Anoka-Hennepin talks, there are signs that the noticeably quieter Minneapolis teacher talks could wrap up in the next few days.
Negotiators met Thursday and Friday and were scheduled to meet again Saturday. If they reach a tentative agreement soon, that would be the earliest pact in at least three rounds of bargaining covering six contract years.
“Making great progress -- looks like we are getting very close,” Lynn Nordgren (right), president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, wrote in a text message on Friday. She said both sides came to negotiations willing to listen and openly discuss issues. “We believe we came to some good solid agreements as a result.”
School Board Chairman Richard Mammen agreed. “Teachers and administration are meeting as we speak and seem very intent on coming to a conclusion very soon. The reports I’ve had is that we’re making good progress. I’m optimistic that we’ll have something in hand to consider soon.”
Unlike St. Paul, where union leaders scheduled a strike authorization vote, and Anoka-Hennepin, where teachers have been working to the letter of their contract, the Minneapolis union has eschewed such public tactics in favor of working with the assistance of a state mediator. Talks have been closed since October after the union sought mediation. The most heated moment came when normally diplomatic Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson blasted the mediation request.
The tenor this time has been a particularly sharp contrast to the 2009-2011 round when it took 18 months, an arbitration and teachers flexing their muscles by parading through a board meeting to express their displeasure over no contract. That two-year contract was approved less than six months before it expired. Negotiations for the 2011-2013 contract didn't reach a tentative agreement until late March, meaning any agreement covering 2013-2015 reached now would beat that by several weeks.
The Minneapolis contract probably has gotten more scrutiny than any other teacher contract in the state from those who style themselves school reform advocates, who showed up at many of the pre-mediation bargaining sessions. A college group calling itself Students For Education Reform protested the closing of mediated bargaining but so far has not gotten legislation introduced to change the mediation commissioner's discretion to close sessions.
Talks started in June, shortly after Johnson (left) sketched priorities in a May speech to civic leaders. She asked for more flexibility from teachers in their contract, including agreement to go ahead with what she calls partnership schools, which would get more autonomy but be accountable for achieving performance standards. She also laid out such negotiating priorities as more teaching time, hiring flexibility, fiscal restraint and opportunities for teachers to assume more leadership.
A union response called for smaller classes, more student services, less testing, more hiring more time to plan classes, and more culturally relevant lessons. Early talks produced agreement to open Cityview school building as one of Johnson's partnership schools, but that later fizzled for other reasons. Teachers also agreed to apply to the state for $9 million under an alternative teacher compensation program, and that money was awarded.
Council members expressed support today for legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota, as advocates prepare to push for the measure at the State Capitol this year.
“Medical marijuana is a valuable tool for doctors,” Council Member Andrew Johnson declared at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
The panel voted to add support for a medical marijuana law to the city’s legislative agenda.
Johnson said he underwent three eye surgeries for glaucoma and “was on every single drug possible” beforehand to reduce his loss of vision and improve the outcome of the operations. His doctor, who also treated patients in Florida, was permitted to prescribe them marijuana.
He added: “She told me flat out this improves the outcomes for our patients … I didn’t have that option in this state, and I don’t want to see any of our residents or any residents in this state lose vision.”
Council Member Lisa Bender made a special trip to the committee – though she is not a member – to share her experience surviving breast cancer.
“This is a big deal,” she said.
Bender said she had surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy and years of drugs to prevent a reoccurrence of bre
Drugs for patients today include sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and narcotic pain medications, she said, and “I don’t see any reasons that policymakers should stand in the way of … adding medical marijuana to that toolkit.”
“It is the smart thing to do,” she said, “and the compassionate thing to do for many people who are suffering today.”
A south Minneapolis bar fighting accusations that it has enabled violence and drug-dealing lost a bid to renew its liquor license today from a regulatory committee of the Minneapolis City Council.
The panel voted 5-0 against granting another liquor license to Champions Saloon and Eatery at the corner of West Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue South, after city regulators and attorneys contended that allowing the bar to continue serving alcohol was not in the public interest.
The move follows Administrative Law Judge Jeanne Cochran’s findings in a report this month that Champions failed to provide adequate security. She recommended either not renewing the bar’s license or renewing it with strict conditions that could keep patrons safe.
Champions attorney Ed Matthews vowed to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing before council members that the matter was similar to the city’s case against Gabby’s Saloon and Eatery. The appeals court in 2009 sided with that bar, which has since closed, and directed the city to award it a settlement of more than $200,000, claiming that Minneapolis had gone too far in penalizing the establishment for what happened off the premises.
The Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee also denied Champions’ move to stay the action during the appeals process. The matter now goes to the full City Council for final approval.
Owner Rick Nelson said he would keep the restaurant open even without selling alcohol, which now accounts for about 70 percent of his sales. The bar employs 25 people.
Matthews argued that the bus stop right outside the bar had brought in a lot of crime, and that the police department’s prohibition on Champions continuing to employ off-duty cops made the problem worse. But assistant city attorney Joel Fussy said the bar refused to accept responsibility for escalating criminal and nuisance activity, which came to a head last August when a man was shot to death inside Champions while it was packed.
It looks like northeast Minneapolis is on the verge of getting a long-awaited new bridge.
Here’s a look at the proposed design for the long-planned replacement of the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge over the Northtown Yard.
Construction is expected to start next fall or early 2015 on the new bridge, which has a $30 million project cost, all but $1 million of it funded. It will be wider than the current span, and the project will include upgrading two nearby streets.
The city has been working since the late 1980s to replace the fracture-critical 1925 bridge that scores only two points on a bridge evaluation index of 100 possible. That’s the worst rating in Hennepin County. It also has weight restrictions, and even the sidewalk that serves adjoining Park Board bike and walking paths has been restricted.
Public Works representatives described the bridge's engineering to the council as innovative but so far have not responded to further inquiries by the Star Tribune to explain why.
The project is complicated by crossing a railyard of 24 tracks, and the railroad's request that it be limited to two piers, according to Public Works staff. One of the three spans will be a 305-foot truss that visually echoes the five-truss design that makes the old bridge distinctive.
The location of the bridge on the Grand Rounds parkway system and over the rail yard, both considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, complicated the design process. There were lengthy consultations with federal and state agencies, which combine for about half of the project's funding, and a series of community meetings. .
The parkway nearby carries several thousand vehicles per day. The new bridge will have a 14-foot traffic lane in each direction, a 14-foot trail space on the south side, and a 10-foot sidewalk on the north side.
The project also includes realignment where California and Main Streets SE connect with the bridge approaches to improve visibility for drivers. Both streets are to be rebuilt, with California going from an oiled-dirt road without curb or gutter to a modern street.
The proposed replacement was presented to the City Council in committee Tuesday.
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