RED WING (AP) -- Students here were preparing to return to school on Friday after teachers and school officials approved a deal on Wednesday that ended a four-week-old teachers' strike.
It was the second such strike this year, the first was in International Falls, lasted three weeks and ended last month. Before that, Minnesota had gone 10 years without teachers walking off the job.
The causes of the two strikes were similar and common throughout the state: teachers demanding better wages and health benefits which school administrators said their districts' couldn't afford.
The Red Wing strike ended with teachers and school board members approving a pair of two-year contracts, one covering the previous and current school years and the other lasting until mid-2005.
Teachers will receive a retroactive 1 percent salary increase for the 2001-02 school year and a staggered salary increase that will reach 5 percent by the end of the current school year. They'll get 2.5 percent salary increases for both the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years.
The two sides also compromised over health insurance payments.
The district pushed to cap contributions for teachers' health insurance premiums and teachers requested no change to the district's practice of paying full single coverage and 75 percent of family coverage.
Under the new contract, teachers starting in January will pay more in deductibles, prescription co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses, but the district will continue to pay for full single coverage and 75 percent of family coverage through mid-2004. The district and the teachers will evenly split the cost if premiums increase later.
"Neither side is getting everything they wanted," Superintendent Kelly Smith said.
The leader of the local chapter of the state teachers' union agreed. "Both sides had to make compromises," said Sue Wolter, Education Minnesota Red Wing president. "We are happy this is done."
Classes resume Friday for the first time since Oct. 21. The district's 220 teachers will return to schools Thursday to prepare. Only three of the missed days will be made up.
Until the strike, teachers worked without a contract since July 1, 2001. The two sides worked out a compromise on Tuesday.
There were about 3,100 students in the school system when the strike began; there are fewer now. As the strike dragged on, frustrated parents enrolled at least 20 children in local private schools or in public schools in neighboring districts.
The Red Wing school district, which already has an operating deficit of about $1.3 million, will lose between $4,000 and $5,000 in per-pupil funding for each student who completes the remainder of the school year elsewhere, according to the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.