MINNEAPOLIS — “We are looking for systemic changes. Not Band-Aids.”
That was the message from Minneapolis Federation of Teachers President Greta Callahan as educators entered the fourth day of their strike against the Minneapolis Public Schools.
The work stoppage began on Tuesday, March 8 following months of contract negotiations between the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and school district failed to come up with a solution.
Friday morning, the union and school district began a marathon of negotiating sessions that could last through the weekend in hopes of reaching a deal. Heading into negotiations though, it doesn't appear that an agreement is imminent.
Callahan said the union was the last party to come to bargaining table. "It's their turn to move," she said after claiming teachers haven't received a counterproposal on major issues from the school district since last week. Callahan also called on the Minneapolis School Board and Superintendent Ed Graff to intervene in the negotiations, and said the union wants to see more support from Minneapolis Major Jacob Frey and Governor Tim Walz, who used to be a teacher himself.
According to MPS, the district's bargaining team reassembled Friday after meeting with Superintendent Graff, union leaders and the Board of Education on Thursday. The district says it will discuss proposals with the MFT and ESP later in the day.
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At a press conference on March 8, Superintendent Graff said the district and union are about "$100 million apart" on their proposals, and that MFT's proposals amount to $166 million more than the district currently has budgeted.
"We can't stand this far apart. That's not going to work," Graff said. "We have all these priorities that we want to have happen, and we don't have the resources for it."
“We understand this (the strike) is tough for folks but what’s on the other side of this is a much better school system – smaller class sizes, more mental health supports, more stable support staff," said MFT ESP President Shaun Laden Friday.
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Pay raises, more professional time for ESP staff and recruitment and retention of educators of color are other issues teachers want to see the district address.
The union is also asking the district to pay them a salary competitive with neighboring districts. Proposal summaries posted on the MPS website show the union has asked for a 21% increase in teacher wages over two years, and the district has countered with a 6.4% wage increase over two years.
According to state data the average teacher in Minneapolis made about $71,500 last school year, lower than neighboring districts like St. Paul ($85,000), Anoka-Hennepin ($81,000), Bloomington ($81,000) and Edina ($80,000).
Laden again pointed to St. Paul as an example of why they should be able to reach a deal in Minneapolis while speaking to reporters. Late Monday night, the Saint Paul Federation of Educators reached a "tentative agreement" in their ongoing negotiations with Saint Paul Public Schools, avoiding a strike.
PFE educator and lead negotiator Erica Schatzlein said on March 7 that the union made deals on key issues like smaller class sizes and increased mental health support.
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