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Teacher salary settlements drop to record low in state

Education Minnesota, a union of 70,000 educators, estimates more than half of the state's teachers accepted salary freezes in one or both years of their new two-year contracts.

Salary increases averaged 0.77 percent in the first year, and 0.96 percent in the second year - the lowest settlements on record, according to Education Minnesota.

"Teachers are making historic sacrifices for the sake of their students," said Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher.

Four years ago, Minnesota ranked 16th in the nation in average teacher salary. Today, it ranks 20th, according to Education Minnesota leaders.

The average teacher salary in Minnesota is $51,938, compared to the national average of $54,333. The average starting salary for a Minnesota teacher is $33,009.

A reported 316 of the state's 344 districts met the January 15 deadline to reach settlements with their teachers.

The 28 districts that didn't make the deadline face a $25 per student fine.

All of the districts in the Douglas County area made the deadline.

"I want to congratulate the teachers in the settled districts," Dooher said. "Despite all the difficulties and troubled times, they worked through their issues together. They did the best they could under tough conditions. Their communities should be proud of the leadership, patience and hard work their teachers demonstrated."

One of the most difficult issues in this year's bargaining was the soaring cost of health insurance, according to Dooher. He said that studies have shown those costs, more than teacher salaries, are responsible for escalating expenses to schools.

"It makes sense that if we can lower that cost, we can put those resources where they directly benefit our students," Dooher said.