Arbitrary teacher contract negotiation deadline costs taxpayers

Minnesota school districts have been penalized $3.5 million since 2006

Minneapolis, MN—Minnesota’s school districts have been fined more than $3.5 million since 2006 for failing to settle teacher contract negotiations by a state-imposed deadline, according to a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota analysis.

Under current Minnesota law, every two years a school district and their local teachers’ union must both sign a collective bargaining agreement by January 15. These negotiations occur in even numbered years. The state imposes a penalty on districts that fail to meet the deadline.  This penalty results in a one-time reduction in weighted state aid equal to $25 per pupil.

Financial pressures on local school boards have exacerbated the problem in recent years, resulting in over $2.5 million in fines levied by the state in 2010. By comparison, districts were fined a total of just $86,454 between 2000 and 2005.

Total penalties levied statewide set a record in 2010, and thefine imposed on Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) was the highest in state history. Contrary to media reports and MPS communications, which estimated an $800,000 fine, the actual penalty was substantially higher ($945,024) due to the state’s policy of weighing per pupil aid as a formula for calculating the fine.

“The current framework for negotiating teacher contracts is dramatically skewed in favor of the teachers’ union,” said Freedom Foundation of Minnesota vice president Jonathan Blake. “And the fines, while significant, are only part of the story. The hidden cost of the current system is far greater. Those costs are incurred and exacerbate the problems facing school districts and their long-term financial stability every time a district is forced by state law to acquiesce to the teachers’ union in order to avoid the prospect of a huge fine by the state.”

The data help illustrate the flawed, one-sided nature of contract negotiations between the teachers’ union and local school districts.

Blake continued: “Under the current system, districts are punished for standing their ground, while the union is rewarded for standing theirs. That policy hurts local governments and taxpayers.“

See charts below for 2006-2010 data.


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Questions or feedback? Contact Jonathan Blake, FFM Vice President. 612-354-2192.

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