Legislators Aim To Unmask Severance Packages

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota legislators sought Tuesday to compel greater disclosure of public employee severance packages in the wake of a secretive $255,000 payout to a Burnsville administrator.

The House Education Finance Committee approved a bill that would make public the reasons for any payout settlement greater than $10,000. Schools and other public employers are currently required to do so only if the settlement is related to solving a dispute, Rep. Pam Myhra said.

Officials in the Burnsville district have declined to explain the settlement paid to the former human resources director, saying it would violate privacy laws. That stance has sparked anger from parents and residents, and Myhra, a Republican from the district, said her bill was a direct response to the payout.

The committee also advanced a bill that would let schools suspend without pay a teacher charged with a felony. The teacher would get back pay if he or she is cleared. Current law requires districts to pay such suspended teachers if they demand a hearing before dismissal.

Jan Alswager, a lobbyist for Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers’ union, testified against the felony suspension bill, saying it risked presuming a teacher’s guilt rather than innocence.

The two bills are just the latest of several this session focusing on teachers and school employees. Gov. Mark Dayton earlier signed into law a widely supported bill requiring teachers to pass a basic reading and math skills test before being licensed. He is also weighing a bill that would let schools consider teacher evaluations as part of layoff decisions rather than seniority alone.

During the committee meeting, Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, said some of the bills unfairly vilify teachers. Anzelc, himself a former teacher, said he worried that they would have a chilling effect on the profession.

“(Teachers’) tenure is being attacked, their seniority is being attacked, their licensure is being attacked, their personal conduct is being attacked,” Anzelc said outside the hearing. “I just don’t believe that it’s the classroom teacher who should bear the brunt of any perceived inadequacies in our public schools.”

Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who co-sponsored the two newest bills, disagreed.

“These are the same arguments the status quo made against open enrollment, charter schools and post-secondary enrollment,” Garofalo said. “The data shows on a bipartisan basis that is simply not accurate.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Grynch

    It’s good to see that they’re finding more solutions to fixing the public school system aside from just spending all of our money on it.

  • G Dog

    So “innocent until proven guilty” is selective.

    Welcome to the USSR, Grynch.

    • G Dog

      Ah, the “truth” emerges, at least your warped view of the truth. But why just teachers? Why didn’t the Republidictators include themselves? Why not you, Grynch? Why not the police? Why not any private company that receives ANY state contracts, tax breaks or conducts business within our borders?

      When the basic liberties of a single person or class are compromised, so too are the liberties of all.

      Surely you can’t be that stupid.

      • Grynch

        The privileges of public sector unions go far beyond “basic liberties”. Do you consider keeping the spending of public money a secret a “basic liberty”? Do you consider $255,000.00 severance for resigning after six months of service a “basic liberty”? The truth is that we deserve to know the truth especially if it’s our money involved and we deserve to be able to hold these teachers up to a certain standard if it’s our kids involved.

        • G Dog

          You are focusing on ONE case and justifying it to deny the rights of the accused to 70,000 people. “Secret”?? You have a right to access the budget of your school district anytime you want. Have you ever done that??? Or are you satisfied with throwing out a net of accusations against every public employee? Doesn’t make more sense to campaign against the school board members who voted for this settlement rather than deny civil rights to a kindergarten teacher in Greenbush or Worthington??

  • John

    As I’ve stated in previous posts the G in G Dog certainly doesn’t stand for genius.

    • G Dog

      Maybe G isn’t for genius, but certainly GENUINELY concerned that the whacko-right is the greatest threat to American liberty in my generation.

      • DontTread

        Have you not been paying attention to the last 4 months? Liberty and liberal have nothing to do with each other.

  • John

    It’s got nothing to do with the whacko-right, as stated, they get back pay if they’re cleared. Police are normally hired at the city or county level and private employees are paid by by their employer so those situations are completely different. The part that disturbs me is that you can possibly compare this to Jews in Nazi Germany.

    • G Dog

      Denying rights guaranteed by the Constitution should be opposed by all who believe in the foundation tenets of American rights. While the “Jews and Nazi” analogy is, I admit, extreme, it still demonstrates a basic violation the 5th and 14th amendments of due process and equal protection of the law.

      Teachers today, you tomorrow.

      • J D FROM ALA

        G Dog, you’re right. Today it’s them, tomorrow you, and the next day—they’re after ME!.

  • John

    I hope it’s me tomorrow, if I am ever accused of a felony I’d be greatly appreciative of any employer who didn’t fire me and gave me paid time off if I were found not guilty. You and I live in two completely different worlds G Dog.

    • G Dog

      But it wouldn’t give you paid time off. You would be a falsely accused person without any income for 1 – 2 years. Good luck making your house payment on the word of a quack.

      That’s a world I wouldn’t want to live in.

      BTW John, I have four unreliable witnesses who saw you having sex with a black Lab and then killing its 4 year old owner. That should take a year or so to make it through the courts before being thrown out of court while you make zero $. You might even share a cell with BIG con who thinks that you are damn cute. Sue for false arrest?? Good luck getting a penny out of four winos paid off by a mysterious benefactor with a case of Thunderbird.

      Start practicing your polka, Johnny Dear!!!

  • Hank Rearden

    Transparency is a good thing.

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