Arbitrators working to settle a dispute over teacher pay raises in the Minneapolis school district has ruled that the district owes teachers back pay.
The Minneapolis schools froze scheduled pay raises last year as they dealt with budget problems. They also told teachers the district wouldn't be able to pay for raises that are part of the state Q Comp performance pay program.
District spokesman Stan Alleyne told the Star Tribune the district will have to pay teachers and staff nearly $17 million to settle the dispute.
Alleyne on Wednesday referred questions to School Board Chairman Tom Madden, who did not immediately return a call.
But the teachers union disputes the total, saying federal money and cost-saving measures proposed by the union would bring the district's cost down to $7 million.
Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Teachers Federation, said teachers had a written agreement with the school district on Q Comp. She said district officials wanted to continue Q Comp even after they couldn't pay the raises.
"They did the work and at the end of the work the district said, 'I'm sorry, we can't pay you,'" Nordgren said. "It's kind of like if you hire somebody to paint your house and you sign a contract and when they get done you say, 'I'm really sorry, I ran out of money I had to pay the electrician, but could you come back next year and paint it again?' And that's essentially what was happening."
Nordgren said Minneapolis teachers have been working under their previous contract as they work out a new contract with the district.
The two sides plan to meet Monday with a mediator.