Updated at 12:28 p.m.

Several GOP lawmakers introduced legislation in the Minnesota Senate Tuesday that would freeze teacher pay across the state for two years and bar them from striking to demand more money.

The bill, sponsored by several Senate leaders including Education Committee chairman Sen. Gen Olson, would prevent schools from increasing teacher wages unless it falls under an existing contract. It also prohibits school districts from entering into new contracts that raise wages. 

It specifies that any strike related to the bill's wage provisions would be deemed illegal.

Such an effort would have held little weight in previous DFL-led Legislatures, given Education Minnesota's influence in St. Paul, but Republican majorities may find enough fuel to send it to the governor's desk.

“We all want our teachers to prosper, but we cannot ignore economic realities. All taxpayers, whether business owners or employees, are struggling. We must not add to their burden, but still find a way to maintain our high standards for public education,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, a bill sponsor and assistant majority leader. Thompson was elected to his first term this November.

In addition to the wage freezes, the bill would eliminate several revenue requirements on school districts, such as setting aside a certain amount of money per pupil and reserving a percentage of funds for staff development.

Locally negotiated wage and benefit increases raise district costs every year, though the state itself has little control over the process.

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