MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Public Schools employees and their supporters are holding a rally Wednesday afternoon to demand the district make changes to their pay.

Education support specialists, or ESPs, are school employees who do things like de-escalate fights in the hallways and make sure students get breakfast. They are special education and classroom assistants, translators, and family liaisons.

They're also the lowest paid district employees, according to Shaun Laden, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 Education Support Professionals.

Laden said in a previous contract, the ESPs had a pay freeze, and the following year got only a one percent raise. There are about 1600 working for the district.

This time, he says that won't be good enough.

"Our folks are hurting. We've got people who are homeless. We have people who are on public assistance," says Laden. "You know, our principals, our administrators are constantly saying we can't do school without ESPs. That needs to be reflected in the pay that folks have."

Time is ticking as the union and school district negotiate a new contact that will be good for the next two years. The current contract expires June 30.

Minneapolis Public Schools sent KARE 11 the following statement:

"Minneapolis Public Schools appreciates our ESPs raising awareness on these topics and agrees on their importance. That is why we made sure to get all of our ESPs to $15/hr and above in the last round of negotiations, and why we are meeting with them almost weekly to reach a contract agreement that:

  • Promotes learning and working environments that welcome, respect and value diversity and focus on student/learner achievement and outcomes.
  • Promotes recruitment, training and retention of a diverse cadre of educators and staff with the skills and commitment needed to ensure all students achieve their full potential.
  • Prioritizes equitable pay for our employee groups with misaligned salary grades to help with recruitment and retention of highly qualified candidates and employees"

The rally will begin at Union Hall in northeast Minneapolis at 1 p.m.,