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School district negotiations with teachers moving slowly

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Tom Dooher
Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher, speaking to reporters.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

School districts across Minnesota are agreeing to terms with teachers at a slower pace than during the last contract cycle.

State law requires every Minnesota school district to be on the same schedule for teachers contracts. The next contract deadline is January 15th, about seven weeks away.

Tom Dooher, president of the Education Minnesota teachers' union, said 61 of the state's 339 districts have reached agreements. At this time two years ago, 82 districts had deals in place. Dooher said the bad economy and uncertain state funding are slowing the pace.

"The teachers are very sensitive to the economy and understand," Dooher said. "Each locality is different; they've got a little different amount of money. So I think the locals are very aware of that and they're just trying to get a fair and equitable settlement. I don't think they're asking for anything outrageous, from what I've seen."

Even with the economy, Dooher said all contracts approved so far either keep salaries flat or include increases - none have included salary cuts.

"We've been seeing lower settlements on salary schedule improvements this time...but yet they're still getting a salary improvement - which I think is important to do," he said. "We really need to think of education and our educators as an investment on our future and our kids' future."

Dooher said health care and salary are likely to be the key issues in the remaining negotiations.