Teachers in Minneapolis and St. Paul will vote this week on whether to strike over wages, student mental health support and class sizes.
Minneapolis Federation of Teachers
Education support professionals, including special education assistants, want the district to increase starting pay to $35,000. The current typical starting wage is about $24,000, according to the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.
They also want the school district to reduce education support professionals’ insurance premiums, which are roughly the same as staff who make twice as much, according to the union.
The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers teacher chapter is calling for each building to have a social worker and counselor on site every day, and for the district to double the number of school psychologists to bring the psychologist-to-student ratio down from 1:1,000 to 1:500, which is the recommended staffing level.
Minneapolis Public Schools and the teachers’ union have been negotiating a contract to cover the 2021-2023 school years since February 2021 and moved into mediation in the fall.
St. Paul Federation of Educators
The St. Paul teachers’ union is pushing for 2.5% salary raises, mental health teams in all schools and reducing maximum class sizes by two students.
St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard told the Pioneer Press that the district can’t afford the union’s demands. He said the district is facing a $42.8 million shortfall due to enrollment declines, and the class size reduction would cost $11 million, requiring more budget cuts elsewhere.
The potential strike comes two years after St. Paul educators walked off the job over mental health staffing and teacher pay. The district acceded to some of the union’s demands in March 2020, but union leaders said they felt rushed to reach a deal as the pandemic hit the United States.
Members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Education Support Professionals chapter will vote Monday through Thursday, while members of the St. Paul Federation of Educators will vote on Thursday afternoon.
If approved, the unions would have to wait 10 days before striking if they choose to; however, they could still opt to forgo a strike altogether even if the vote passes.
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