Teachers May Sacrifice More in the Future in Duluth Public Schools

By KBJR News 1

March 9, 2012 Updated Mar 9, 2012 at 10:28 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - While middle school athletics, the number of class periods in a day, and music could be compromised to help fix a $3.8 million dollar budget gap, Duluth school board members had asked why options like salary freezes were not on the table.

The Duluth Federation of Teachers President discussed the budget issues Friday.

The Duluth Superintendent says after decades of cuts there are no easy cuts left to make.

"We're really to the point where anything that we cut is cutting into the very core of what we do and the core of what we believe in."

"It's painful." said Ann Wasson, president of the school board.

School board members have asked about other options like salary freezes because the savings add up fast.

"Increasing employment health insurance contributions, everyone's doing it," pointed out board member Mary Cameron.

"I know we're going there in the conversations, and I think it's more a question right now is when," said Bill Gronseth, the district busines manager.

"Right now, I just don't feel confident that that would happen," said Gronseth.

The union president says contractual issues would make those changes difficult.

"The Public Employees Labor Relations Act does not allow re-openers for contracts or benefits," said Frank Wanner, president of the Duluth Federation of Teachers.

However, next year is a negotiations year and at that point the union may have to be more flexible.

"All things are on the table, but remember; time and time again we hear how important it is to both attract and to keep quality teachers," said Wanner.

Gronseth also says he wants to avoid cuts that lead to bigger class sizes.

"We had a lot of community outcry because of class sizes of 50 and 60," said Gronseth.

Bigger classes, already means more work for teachers.

"We're doing more and not making more. Is it then fair to ask the teachers to actually make less?," said Wanner.

Wanner says, instead, it takes a village to educate the community, even if that means paying up.

"A levy is a very, very important thing and we have a responsibility to propose a levy and then as citizens to works towards it that levy."

It's an option the district is looking at for the future.

The Duluth School Board will be discussing the proposed cuts to fix the budget deficit again on Monday.

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