St. Paul teachers contract includes pay increase, smaller class sizes

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A tentative two-year contract for the St. Paul teachers union includes a pay raise for teachers and agreements on issues teachers say they were most concerned about: lowering class sizes and hiring more support staff, MPR News reports. Officials from the school district and the teachers union outlined the major components of the deal Monday afternoon.

The tentative agreement, announced Friday, caps nine months of tense negotiations between the two sides, and averted a strike vote by the union that was scheduled for Monday.

The agreement will lower class sizes at 30 schools with the highest population of low-income students, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, although the class ratios won't be as low as the union had wanted. That provision covers the next two-year contract as well, stretching into 2017.

Most teachers will receive a 2.25 percent cost-of-living raise in the first year and 2 percent the second year, according to the Pioneer Press. That's in addition to automatic increases for experience or education -- a 2.5 percent increase each year for the average teacher.

Teachers in St. Paul earn $68,400 a year on average; the district puts the average cost of benefits at more than $23,000, said the newspaper.

The contract also contains an agreement that the district will hire 42 full time-equivalent positions in the two years, resulting in more elementary counselors, school social workers and nurses. The district will shift existing funds to pay for those positions, according to MPR.

The school district estimates the cost of the entire package at $33 million.

Teachers will vote on the contract on March 3. The executive board of the teachers union has recommended teachers vote to accept the agreement. The school board will vote on the tentative agreement March 18

According to Education Minnesota, the statewide teacher union, more than 40 percent of the state's roughly 330 districts have not yet settled their contracts with teachers.

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