Costly layoffs if education funding bill fails

ST. PAUL (AP) — It will cost the state $8 million to lay off some 540 Department of Children, Families and Learning employees if Gov. Carlson and the Legislature don’t agree on a K-12 funding bill soon enough.
Commissioner Robert Wedl said Wednesday the state would have to pay out employees’ vacation accounts and medical insurance for six months if they laid them off.
“That is a pretty costly way to address this issue,” he said before the Senate, Families and Learning Committee.
But he and Sen. Larry Pogemiller, the committee’s chairman, said they doubt it will come to that.
“Hopefully we will make it by July 1. I’m optimistic and apparently the governor is optimistic that we will,” said Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.
“I think there is a desire on the part of everybody to get this resolved,” said Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, who put the probability of a swift resolution at 50-50.
Without a K-12 budget, the department doesn’t have the money to pay its employees, and school districts won’t get increased funding. Carlson called a special session to deal with the issue June 26.
The department sent out layoff notices to 270 employees earlier this month. As a result, many are considering, or already have moved to jobs at other state agencies.
A plan to keep the employees, even without a new bill, will be completed June 25, Wedl said. It will involve shifting federal money and borrowing from other accounts. It would keep the employees in their jobs through the end of the summer.
“The morale is not the best. It’s like a month-to-month thing, and you’re never really sure if you have a job,” said Jan Odegaard, who works at the Faribault State Academy for the Deaf.
Since the legislative session ended May 19, Carlson and DFL lawmakers have often bitterly and almost always publicly fought over the $150 million in tax credits and deductions Carlson wants for private schools, tutors, camps and computers.