Hourly school employees not covered by legislative action

Despite two weeks of legislative work with the administration to ensure that Minnesota school districts’ hourly workers will get paid during the COVID-19 pandemic, no agreement was made by the time the Legislature convened to pass legislation to address the crisis facing schools and employees.

Under the Executive Orders from Governor Walz on March 15 and 25 and with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education, districts are directed to use all available staff to provide distance learning, childcare, and meals. However, any employee not being directed to work will not get paid.

MDE guidance says that because districts will be receiving full state funding for providing distance learning, “it is expected that all staff, including non-salaried, hourly staff, will earn full pay and benefits as planned in the school budgets and bargaining agreements.”

The proposal was posted for public comment on House Committee websites. The amendment’s goal was written to support schools, staff, and students and direct a stable and predictable path for students and staff amid what will be and feel like a challenging situation.  It was also designed to help ease the burden to the state’s unemployment system, which has been overwhelmed with applications.

Eleven education advocacy groups on March 25 provided written feedback to Governor Walz and legislative leaders in support of the amendment.  From the letter: “Passage of

[the amendment]

during tomorrow’s session will allow schools to continue their essential work and allow you to refocus legislative time and energy on absorbing the pending federal pandemic legislation and salvaging the private sector economy.” The MN School Boards Association, Education Minnesota, MN Association of School Administrators, Association of Metro School Districts, MN Rural Education Association, Schools for Equity in Education, MN Association of Secondary School Principals, MN Elementary School Principals Association, MN Community Education Association, MN School Nutrition Association, MN Association of School Business Officials.

The organizations also ask that funding be provided to cover lost fees in community education and school nutrition programs. According to the communication, 85% of community education funding comes from fees, and although schools provided over 100,000 meals last week, this is an 80% decrease in the number of meals normally provided.         

Not including this proposal within the larger COVID-19 response bill that was passed by the Legislature this week will result in tighter finances for school districts and many school employees not getting paid during a time of crisis.