Teachers in Minneapolis are scheduled to go on strike on Tuesday morning, closing classes for around 30,000 children in the city’s public schools.
Teachers’ unions and school district officials have been bargaining about compensation, hiring, and resources for kids’ mental health for many weeks. Despite the fact that the discussions in Minneapolis failed to reach a conclusion by their deadline on Monday evening, the district claimed that it could not afford to satisfy teachers’ requests.
On Monday night, a teachers’ strike in St. Paul was avoided when the union, the Saint Paul Federation of Educators, and the city’s public school system struck a preliminary deal.
Teachers in Minneapolis planned to picket in front of schools beginning on Tuesday morning, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Greta Callahan, the president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ teachers’ branch, indicated that considerable reform was required in the profession.
In the meanwhile, they keep looking at our offers and saying things like ‘These are add-ons that we cannot afford.'” No, you need to completely overhaul the system and do things differently,” we assert.
The district issued a message on Monday evening informing students that classes would be cancelled on Tuesday.
It added that the district “would remain at the mediation table nonstop in an effort to reduce the length and impact of this strike.” “While we are disappointed to learn of this development, we recognise that our organisations’ mutual priorities are based on our deep commitment to the education of Minneapolis students,” the district said.
Saint Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard issued a statement saying that all schools in the state capital will be open on Tuesday.
I think we have reached fair and reasonable agreements that reflect our collective commitment to do what is right for our children,” he stated, “while working within the constraints of the district’s budget and enrollment limits.”
Students in the Twin Cities have already experienced difficulties as a result of the epidemic this year. During the month of January, students in Minneapolis were forced to study remotely for two weeks due to staff shortages caused by the coronavirus. Some schools in St. Paul have also reverted to virtual learning for many days at a time.
Teachers’ unions around the country expressed worry about understaffing due to sickness when schools returned from winter break during the Omicron outbreak. They also expressed concern about the lack of masks and testing available to students. Several days of classes were postponed in Chicago, which is home to the third-largest school system in the US, after teachers’ union members claimed that the classrooms were unsafe. Schools resumed on Jan. 10 after the announcement of a settlement.
However, concerns relating to the epidemic have not been the only cause of contention between the Minneapolis teachers’ union and the school system in recent years.
Member demands include more competitive teacher pay, a base salary of $35,000 for the majority of education support employees, improved circumstances for recruiting and retaining educators of colour, and more staff to handle the mental health needs of kids.
Superintendent Ed Graff of Minneapolis Public Schools has said that the district shares many of the same aims as the school system. However, the district claims that it has been hampered by declining enrollment levels, which has resulted in budget cutbacks at the schools.
As a result of budget surpluses in Minnesota, the teachers’ union has said that money and influence have been concentrated at the top of the district, while instructors have struggled to achieve more with less.
The enrolment at St. Paul schools is also falling, which is a concern. In the autumn of 2021, around 34,000 students will be enrolled in the school system, down from 37,000 in the fall of 2019. In response to the downturn, a decision was made in December to shut and combine a number of schools.
As reported by the teachers’ union, the provisional agreement signed on Monday enhances resources allocated to students’ mental health, strengthens wording about class size limitations, and raises salary, particularly for educational assistants.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said that the unions in both cities had been particularly concerned with getting equitable compensation for educational support personnel. She also expressed dissatisfaction with the way Minneapolis went about negotiating.
It has been decades since teachers in Minneapolis last went on strike to demand higher wages. Teachers in St. Paul went on strike for the first time in 2020, demanding more money to enhance mental health services for children and address racial inequality, among other things.