Minneapolis teachers announce they will go on strike

Minneapolis teachers are expected to go on strike Tuesday morning, closing classrooms for about 30,000 public school students. For week...

Minneapolis teachers are expected to go on strike Tuesday morning, closing classrooms for about 30,000 public school students.

For weeks, teachers’ unions and school district officials negotiate salaries, hiring and resources for student mental health. Talks in Minneapolis failed to produce a resolution by Monday night’s deadline, with the district saying it couldn’t afford to meet teachers’ demands.

Greta Callahan, who leads the teachers’ chapter of the Minneapolis Teachers’ Federation, said significant change was needed.

“They keep looking at our proposals and saying, ‘These are additions we can’t afford.’ And we say, “No, you have to rewrite the whole system and do things differently.”

In an emailed statement Monday night, the district said classes would be closed Tuesday.

“While it is disappointing to hear this news, we know that our organizations mutual priorities are based on our deep commitment to the education of Minneapolis students,” he said, adding that the district “ would remain at the mediation table continuously in an effort to reduce the duration and impact of this strike.

A teachers’ strike also remained a possibility next door in St. Paul, where negotiations between educators and the district continued.

Minneapolis students have already faced pandemic-related disruption this year. In January, students learned remotely for two weeks due to staff shortages related to the coronavirus.

As schools across the United States returned from winter vacation during the Omicron push, many teachers’ unions are concerned on the lack of staff due to illness, as well as shortages of masks and tests. In Chicago, home to the nation’s third-largest school district, a week of classes was canceled after teachers’ union members argued classrooms were unsafe. Schools reopened after a the case was announced January 10.

But pandemic-related issues haven’t been the only source of disagreement between the Minneapolis teachers’ union and the school district.

Union members demanded more competitive salaries for teachers, a starting salary of $35,000 for most education support professionals, better terms for recruiting and retaining educators of color, and enough staff to meet the mental health needs of students.

Ed Graff, Superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, said that the district shared many of the same goals. But the district said it has been crippled by declining enrollment, which means cuts to school budgets.

The district, he said, “continues to face a significant gap between the resources we have – our revenues – and the financial commitments we have made – our expenses,” in part due to declining enrollment, rising costs and decades of underfunding.

Total city public school enrollment K-12 fell just below 30,000 at the start of this school year, compared to almost 33,600 in the fall 2019.

Mr. Graff added that the federal government’s coronavirus relief funds were helping the district meet budget shortfalls, but would not be enough to cover long-term expenses like salary increases.

The teachers’ union pointed out budget surpluses in Minnesota and said that within the district, money and power were concentrated at the top while educators struggled to do more with less.

It’s been decades since teachers in Minneapolis lasted went on strike. Educators at Saint-Paul last strike in 2020 in an effort to secure more resources to improve mental health support for students and address racial disparities, among other issues.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Minneapolis teachers announce they will go on strike
Minneapolis teachers announce they will go on strike
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