Minnesota schools won't be penalized for snow days as lawmakers strike deal

Minnesota schools won’t face financial penalties for calling several snow days this winter under a deal struck by the House and Senate.

The agreement allows school districts to wipe away all of their days canceled for “health and safety” reasons. Districts would have to pay hourly workers or offer additional work to make up for lost wages. Third-party contractors would also have to receive pay.

Some Minnesota districts have canceled 13 days of classes this winter as a one-two punch of frigid cold and record-breaking snowfall hit the state. School administrators and teachers urged lawmakers to act quickly, but a deal was slow to develop before a breakthrough late Tuesday night.

I think it’s a great bill,” said state Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, one of the lead negotiators. “It does what we want to do: keep kids out of harm’s way, keep our districts whole, keep their employees whole.”

Nelson and state Rep. Shelly Christensen, the other lead negotiator, said they expected their respective houses to pass the legislation and send it to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk by Friday. The compromise version mirrors what Walz said earlier this week that he wanted.

The Senate mostly got its way on the number of forgiven days. The House had initially proposed wiping away just three days in late January when districts canceled classes for extreme cold.

The House’s provision to pay hourly workers was a sticking point during negotiations over Senate concerns that doing so would cost districts federal funding.

“Frankly, I got lots and lots of phone calls. It was very difficult for those (hourly workers), who as you can imagine, some lost up to 13 days of pay,” said Christensen, DFL-Stillwater.