Legislative precedent? Answer Man looks at teacher pay freeze question
Dear Answer Man, has the state of Minnesota ever stepped in to tell schools how much they can pay their employees? I can't remember the state ever ordering a pay freeze at the local level. Whatever happened to local control of schools? Could the state do that to city and county governments as well? — Mr. T
Mr. T is referring to the legislation being pushed by Republican leaders in the Senate to freeze the pay of teachers and other school employees for two years. I can't remember the Legislature ever proposing to grab that power from local districts before, and I can't find evidence of any historic precedent.
On Tuesday I called the office of Republican Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville, who's spearheading the bill. According to a news release from his office, headlined, "Sen. Dave Thompson Co-Authors Bill that Empowers School Districts to Live Within Their Means," the bill "provides relief to school districts that are grappling with state mandates and demands from the teacher unions in the current economic climate."
I asked Thompson staffer Susan Closmore if the state had ever taken such a step before. She said she was quite sure it had but would check it out. Later in the day, she sent this note: "I checked with research and to the best of our knowledge, the Legislature has never frozen pay for school district employees."
If you have some dusty document that says the state has ever stepped in to order a pay freeze at the local school level, let me know.
Could the state order a pay freeze for city and county employees? As improbable as that sounds, I wouldn't rule anything out in the current political environment at the Capitol.