A Minnesota Senate committee has given its approval to a two-year freeze on public school salaries throughout the state.
The Senate education committee advanced the measure today on a 9-7 vote. The freeze would impact all employees including bus drivers, custodians, teachers, principals and superintendents.
The bill would also eliminate a Jan. 15 deadline for teacher-contract settlements and prohibit school employees from striking over the wage freeze.
Republican Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville said his bill would help prevent further cuts and layoffs.
"This is an attempt to relieve a financial problem that is bearing down on our school districts immediately and is resulting in harm to our students through loss of teaching jobs and loss of important programs and important classroom alternatives," he said.
The statewide teachers union Education Minnesota opposes the bill. The union's lobbyist Jan Alswager said the freeze would take away local control and result in unintended consequences for teachers.
"This will have an impact on the ability to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers in the state," she said. "It also has a negative impact on the morale of the teaching force, when we're asking them to do more, to perform better, have better test results, with less."
Representatives of the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators testified in favor of the bill.