Minnesota schools' hourly employees fight for snow day pay

Gov. Tim Walz signed a snow day relief bill last month so schools wouldn’t have to make up snow days and workers would get paid. Now, some of the hourly employees in certain school districts, like Osseo area schools, are not getting paid for all the lost days.

The employees are upset, losing out on pay because of all the snow days. For some, it meant they weren’t able to put food on the table.

So, the workers hope that by speaking out, they can put pressure on school leaders to change their minds.

“We do a great job with our children in the Osseo district, and we work very hard, and all we want to do is get paid,” said Special Education Paraprofessional Michelle Dennard.

Currently, some hourly employees at the school district – people like classroom and bus aides, nurses, and secretaries - are missing out on one to three days of pay.

“We are generally the lowest paid group in the school district. We only work the school year, for the most part, so any day that we don’t work and don’t get paid is a huge hit to people’s budgets,” said Becky Hespen with Osseo Area Schools.

The governor signed a snow day relief bill last month that allowed schools to wipe out their snow days and still pay hourly district employees. Some school districts, like Osseo, didn’t need all the relief and were able to meet classroom requirements. But, that means those hourly employees miss out on one or three days of pay

“It can mean the difference between having food for a week, it can mean the difference of having gas to get to work,” Hespen said.

The workers are hoping their message is one that stays with administrators. 

“I believe they should get everything owed to them,” one parent said to the school board.

“It’s the least we can do to make sure the very small amount they are paid is actually paid to them,” teacher Brett Frayseth said. 

Osseo school officials didn’t want to go on camera, but said they always have choices about how to spend public dollars. If they did pay the employees for the one to three snow days, they would have to pay other contractors, too, like the bus company.  

Officials also point out they are only recouping one day under the snow days bill, and they are paying employees for that day.