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Classes canceled Monday as negotiations continue in Minneapolis

Negotiations between Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers are entering its third week.

MINNEAPOLIS — Classes will be canceled Monday for all schools in the Minneapolis Public Schools district after no deal was reached between the district and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Saturday.

The two sides are entering the third week of negotiations, and on Sunday, officials with MPS released details of their "last, best and final" offer to the Education Support Professionals (ESP). 

The offer includes increasing starting wages for 85% of current ESPs to $23 per hour or more and moving lowest paid ESPs from $15.45 per hour to $18. ESPs would also receive $6,000 in bonuses over the next two years. 

"We believe this contract both meets what they've asked for and demonstrates a measure of the respect they deserve," said MPS chair Kim Ellison in a video message. "We are asking them to accept this offer today, and if not, to join us in arbitration so that we can get a deal on this current contract."

Natasha Dockter, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals, responded to the offer saying the two sides are getting closer, but negotiations are still ongoing.

“While we appreciate MPS getting to where they are, we know they can get to $35,000 for ESP. It won’t take much more on their part to settle this strike and get our students and educators back to school. We believe we can get this done," Dockter said in a statement. "We need the school board to do better by those who have waited so long for this needed correction. We also know MPS can do better to recruit and retain educators of color, reduce class sizes, add mental health supports, and create stability for our students by proposing competitive pay for licensed staff. Our members are ready to hold the line until we get there.”

Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and an arbitrator for the state of Minnesota, said both sides would need to agree to bring it to arbitration.

"If you want an arbitration, it actually would look like a trial. So there's opening statements and then there's witnesses on direct examination... there's cross examination," Daly explained. "It would look like a trial and ultimately the arbitrator would then make a written ruling saying what the decision is." 

Daly added, "You always take a risk when you give it to one person because the courts are not going to reverse the decision of the arbitrator."

Teachers and their supporters have been picketing and holding rallies throughout the city, including one Sunday afternoon at Shiloh Temple. MPS students also staged a sit-in at North High School last week to show their support for the educators.

Approximately 30,000 Minneapolis Public Schools students are out of classes. More than 4,500 teachers and education staff are on strike, asking for better wages, smaller class sizes and mental health support for their students.

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