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Minneapolis teachers union approves contract deal with school district

Students are expected to return to the classroom Tuesday, March 29.

MINNEAPOLIS — Editor's note: The above video originally aired following the vote on March 27, 2022.

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) teachers and Education Support Professionals (ESPs) have voted to accept their new contract agreement with the district and their return-to-work plan.

The vote follows 14 days without school for Minneapolis students, teachers and most school staff. 

Students are expected to return to school Tuesday, March 29 according to an email sent out to parents by the school district on Sunday. 

According to the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT), the vote passed among the union's ESP chapter by 79.9% out of 784 votes cast, while their teacher chapter achieved a result of 75.7% out of 2,699 votes cast. 

The union represents about 4,500 teachers and support professionals. MFT went on strike March 8 after negotiations dragged on over wage increases, smaller class sizes, exemptions for teachers of color from seniority-based layoffs and mental health support for students. 

"We know this is not only historic for how long we were out, for some of the gains we have, but also for the unity of our chapters," said MFT Chapter President Greta Callahan, who went on to add, "...we're happy, but we know this isn't enough. We know that this is not good enough. This does not create the schools our students deserve, but it is certainly one step closer."

"We shouldn't have had to [have] gone on strike to win any of these things, any of these critical supports for our students, but we did, and everybody sees that now," she said.

ESP Chapter President Shaun Laden echoed those sentiments. 

"We are here to say when workers come together, we can do anything," he said. "Strikes work. We know that we would not have gotten the results that we have seen, if our folks had not held the line for 14 days." 

Both the district and the teachers union had initially reached a tentative arrangement early Friday, as the district began outlining what a return to class would look like for students — including longer school days for a portion of the semester, and a later end to the school semester than usual to make up for lost time.

Teachers and Educational Support Professionals, or ESPs, were both voting on contracts until 4 p.m. Sunday.

Several ESP staffers told KARE they were happy with their new contract as they left the balloting Sunday afternoon. It increases starting pay for ESPs from $19.83 per hour to $24 per hour, which would raise annual pay from $24,000 to nearly $35,000.

“Hopefully with the vote today we’ll all be in a better place and it’s all about the children too,” Eve Lee, an ESP who works with special education students at South High told KARE. Lee says, in addition to her full-time job at South, she works a part-time job and also babysits to make ends meet.

The teachers had made increasing pay for ESP’s a vital part of their contract talks, and the ESPs were picketing alongside the teachers during the strike.

“It’s been a long and hard couple of weeks and I think we got some good wins, and our students and our staff I think are going to be better off for it,” Susan Joy Broman, an ESP who works in the Minneapolis Kids program at Webster Elementary, told KARE.

The new teachers contract includes a 2% retroactive base pay raise for this year, a 3% raise for 2023, plus a $4,000 lump-sum, one-time bonus. The base pay is applied to the salary schedule known as the steps and lanes system, in which pay is set based on seniority and level of postgraduate degrees.

The negotiated deal also includes layoff protections for BIPOC staff who might otherwise lose jobs during staffing cutbacks. Traditionally, by contract, the layoffs were determined mostly by seniority.

The school district informed parents that teachers will return to their buildings on Monday, ahead of students. School officials are expected to extend the semester from June 10 to June 24. Beginning April 11, an additional 42 minutes will be tacked onto each school day.

Moreover, graduations will still go on as planned, according to district officials. "Holding graduations harmless was important, as is recognizing that schools will have to work with families with already-scheduled plans. Seniors still need to complete their coursework to graduate, but can work with their principals and counselors if already-scheduled plans mean they can’t attend school during the extended year," the district said.

MPS says it is considering distance learning as an option for students and families as they navigate toward the extended portion of the school semester.

Minneapolis Public Schools sent the following email to parents Sunday night.

Dear MPS Families,

Students will return to their classrooms on Tuesday, March 29 after members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) voted today to ratify the tentative contract agreement and agreed to plans for returning to work.

As part of the agreement, Monday, March 28 will be a transition day for teachers and educational support professionals (ESPs) to prepare for the return of students.

The following schedule changes were also agreed upon by MPS and MFT to make up missed time:

  • Students will attend school on Friday, April 1– moving the currently scheduled teacher record-keeping day to Saturday, April 23.
  • Beginning on Monday, April 11, add 42 minutes to each school day for the remainder of the school year.
  • Change the date for the end of Quarter 3 to Thursday, April 21; change the date for the beginning of Quarter 4 to Friday, April 22.
  • Extend the end of the school year to Friday, June 24.

Thank you for your continued patience. Please continue to visit our webpage for updates.

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