2 Years Without A Contract; School Teachers Rally For Settlement

By KBJR News 1

April 16, 2013 Updated Apr 16, 2013 at 10:24 PM CST

Iron, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Teachers from three school districts rallied on the Iron Range Tuesday unified in their efforts to gain new contracts.

More than 100 educators in the Nashwauk–Keewatin, Carlton, and St. Louis County districts have been negotiating for a year and a half.

Some say they are getting close to closing a deal.

There are 330 school districts in the state of Minnesota.

98 percent of those districts have settled contract negotiations with its educators.

Seven of those districts are unsettled in the state. Three of those are located in the Northland.

"I'm above the poverty line but that's about it. I have a Master's Degree and I have two other degrees but it doesn't do me any good as far as pay wise goes," Mary Lee Henriques, Carlton School Teacher, said.

Though Henriques says the degrees she earned has helped her as an educator in Carlton, they have not earned her a greater income.

"It gets hard. I'm the only bread winner in my family and I have a family to support. So, I do need something. My bills have gone up," Henriques said.

Teachers in Carlton have been working without a new contract with no salary schedule increase since the summer of 2008.

Contract negotiations are supposed to occur every two years.

Carlton, joined by Nashwauk–Keewatin and St. Louis County districts are among the last in Minnesota that have yet to settle their contracts.

The President of Education Minnesota says the state union is on the side of educators and they are not in alone.

"Economically they are not sure—you know—should they be spending in the community, so it really has a negative impact on the local economies up here. SO we really need these groups to get together...the school boards and the teachers...and come up with a fair and equitable contract so the schools can focus 100 percent on educating the kids," Tom Dooher, Education Minnesota President, said.

The union president of St. Louis County Schools says one reason contracts are unsettled is because these school districts are in such rural areas.

Paychecks have not increased yet the cost of living is negatively impacting many of these educators.

"Frustration levels are high so patience being lost would certainly be true hopeful still for settlement. Got to be hopeful. Keep trying, keep trying," David Fazio, Union President, St. Louis County Schools, said.

"I suppose disheartening as far as are you truly appreciated sometimes. I know that administration says we are, but its—it would be nice to have a contract just to have things settled for a while," Henriques said.

Teachers with the Carlton school district say they are nearing a contract settlement.

Justin Reis, NNC.
jreis@kbjr.com