Minnesota school districts, teacher’s unions agreeing on contracts at historically slow rate

Deals coming together slowly but surely

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(ABC 6 News) – Across Minnesota more and more school districts are coming together with their teachers unions on new contract agreements despite moving historically slow.

According to Education Minnesota, 182 out of 238 districts affiliated with them in the state have either ratified or reached tentative agreements on new contracts, but only 55% of them have been voted and agreed upon by both the districts and their unions.

Negotiations between school districts and teachers unions are coming together slowly but surely. As of January 30, the number of districts and unions across Minnesota that have ratified their agreements jumped from 45% to 55% over the previous week.

— RELATED Rochester teachers to cease non-contract activities during negotiations with RPS; Pekel details current offer

While the increase in settlements is promising, settlements on new contracts are the slowest they have been over the last 20 years.

“The reason why it’s much slower is for one, one of the things that is talked about in these bargains is health insurance,” said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht. “And one thing that we know is health insurance companies and big pharmaceuticals are raising prices on people everywhere and that includes school districts. This is a conscious decision they are making.”

New health care plans have been on the negotiation table for Rochester Educators Association and Rochester Public Schools, something they reached agreement upon in November according to REA President Vince Wagner.

“Healthcare was on the table and in November prior to open enrollment, we signed a memorandum of agreement which basically settled our healthcare for the contract. That memorandum is in effect until we agree to a contract.”

As more tentative agreements are being reached in places such as Kasson-Mantorville, Stewartville, and Hermantown. Education leaders are growing more optimistic all districts throughout the state will reach their settlements with their teacher’s unions in the near future.

“Our focus is going to be on how we can help and support those conversations because, you know, these contract conversations are really, really important. Our members believe that their contract is a vehicle for recruiting and retaining the best educators into the school district,” said Specht.

“It makes me feel great for my colleagues across the state,” said Wanger. “I don’t think it changes the likelihood of us settling a contract or not. I’m still hopeful for a settlement tonight.”

REA and RPS spent just over three hours discussing elementary class sizes, maternity leave for expecting mothers, and salary on Thursday night.

No tentative agreement was reached by either side for a new contract, as a problem occurred with the costing spreadsheet.

The costing spreadsheet is a shared document that calculates the total cost of any increases, any additions to the contract or and similar topics.

Wagner confirmed both sides will meet for further negotiations on Feb. 19

Wagner says both REA and RPS show a willingness to work together and hope to make a tentative agreement by then.