A tentative, two-year contract with only "step and lane" salary increases will be put to a vote on Jan. 11.
The Anoka-Hennepin School District -- the state's largest -- rang in the New Year with a tentative agreement on a two-year teachers contract.
The agreement, reached Thursday, must still be ratified by teachers. That ratification vote is slated for Jan. 11, said Sandra Skaar, president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, the district's teachers union.
"I have no reason to believe it won't pass," Skaar said.
The school board would then vote to adopt the contract Jan. 13, said district board President Tom Heidemann.
According to Heidemann, the agreement calls for no across-the-board salary increases for teachers in either of the two years of the contract. In the first year, he said, teachers are allowed to have their "step and lane" salary increases, which are given for additional years of experience and for taking courses toward advanced degrees. In year two, they can get only lane increases for the added education credits.
Heidemann said that terms of the contract also contain a "memorandum of understanding" that the district sign up for the state's "Q comp" plan, which requires schools to start tying teachers' pay more to performance than to length of service and level of education.
Skaar would not comment on the particulars of the deal.
"This basically solves our $18 million deficit for next year," Heidemann said. "It's a much lower settlement than would have been provided in past years, quite a lot lower."
The district had forecast an $18 million budget shortfall based on a number of factors, including a 3 percent salary increase per year for teachers. This agreement falls far lower than that projection, Heidemann said. The district also chipped away at that shortfall forecast in November by deciding to close five elementary schools, a middle school, a kindergarten center and an early childhood center.
As a result of the settlement, district officials are hoping they won't have to lay off any teachers this year. That could change should the Legislature decide to cut education funding this year to shrink the state's $1.2 billion budget shortfall.
"It isn't everything we hoped for," Skaar said. "But, given the times, we feel it's the best we could do for our members, so we're recommending that our members support it."
So far, 130 of Minnesota's 340 school districts have reached agreement with their teachers on new contracts, according to statistics gathered by Education Minnesota. Those districts that don't have agreements by Jan. 15 are assessed a $25-per-pupil penalty by the state. In the case of Anoka-Hennepin, that would amount to an estimated $1 million loss.
Norman Draper • 612-673-4547