(The Center Square) – Minneapolis Public Schools educators began picketing Tuesday morning for the first time since 1970.
Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals Local 59’s cross-chapter bargaining priorities demand:
- More mental health supports.
- Affordable, quality health care.
- Support and retention of educators of color.
- Living wages and competitive pay.
- Smaller class sizes and caseloads.
- Safer COVID-19 protocols and staffing.
Another of the union’s priorities is a starting salary of $35,000 for educational support professionals, with full-time positions for at least 90% of them.
The district’s fact sheet on the strike said it aligns on most of the priorities, citing class sizes that average 20 for elementary, 23 for middle school core content classes and 19 for high school core content classes, but it doesn’t have the funding.
The district is anticipating a $97.2 million budget shortfall for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. While Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding will reduce the budget deficit to $25.5 million, the funding gap will persist after that, it said. ESSER funds run out in 2024, and using the funds for long-term expenses will worsen MPS long-term deficit. The departure of 3,000 students from the district, decades of underfunding of public education, and increased costs of school operations have caused the gap between revenue and expenses, it said.
The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals announced the strike Monday evening after they and the school district could not reach an agreement following a strike authorization vote in February.
“While it is disappointing to hear this news, we know our organizations’ mutual priorities are based on our deep commitment to the education of Minneapolis students,” the school district said in its response to the announcement of the strike. “MPS will remain at the mediation table non-stop in an effort to reduce the length and impact of this strike.”
Bag meals, school-based clinics and mental health services, and online learning activities are available for the district’s roughly 29,000 students. Parents can request emergency supervision for children in pre-K through fifth grade and review a list of community resources for child care and other services.
Saint Paul Public Schools and the Saint Paul Federation of Educators, on the other hand, avoided a strike with a tentative agreement Monday regarding new contracts for teachers, educational assistants, and school and community service professionals.
“I believe we have arrived at fair and equitable agreements that respect our collective desire to do right by our students, while working within the district’s budget and enrollment limitations,” Superintendent Joe Gothard said in a statement.
Details will be released regarding the agreements. The Board of Education must approve them.