The Potluck

Minneapolis teachers rally at Capitol for more education funding

By: - March 9, 2022 1:58 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol building in winter, St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo by Tony Webster.

The Minneapolis teachers union called on lawmakers to put some of the state’s projected $9.3 billion budget surplus toward education funding during a rally at the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon. 

Hundreds of supporters, including families and students, joined the union at the Capitol on the second day of the teachers strike. This is the first time the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has gone on strike in more than 50 years, after the district and union reached an impasse in negotiations over pay and staffing levels.

Minneapolis Public Schools says it can’t afford the union’s demands in the face of a multi-million-dollar projected budget shortfall. Now, teachers are increasing pressure on the Legislature to pitch in.

The Republican majority that controls the state Senate is unlikely to go along. Republicans have been cool to education spending increases this year, arguing recent funding boosts haven’t resulted in better outcomes for students. Senate Republicans have also repeatedly used Minneapolis as a political cudgel, especially in the past two years, often attacking the city as dysfunctional and unworthy of state support. 

Negotiations between the district and union have taken place behind closed doors since December, so details about current proposals are limited. The union’s demands include 10% pay raises for teachers — down from 20% in earlier negotiations — as well as more mental health staff in schools and smaller class sizes.

Education support professionals, like special education assistants, are demanding their contract raise starting salaries from $24,000 to $35,000.

House Democrats have introduced proposals that would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into public schools by eliminating funding gaps in programs for English language learners and students with disabilities and tying the school funding formula to inflation.

Gov. Tim Walz’s budget recommendations tackle many of the same issues, as well as increasing mental health funding and higher pay for education support professionals.

At a news conference Tuesday, Walz said the state Bureau of Mediation Services had briefed him on the Minneapolis negotiations, and he hoped to see the district and union reach a fair agreement, the Sahan Journal reported.

“Our mediators are doing the best they can,” Walz said. “Sometimes it just takes a little bit longer. I think we will — I know we will — reach a consensus that is both best for our students, best for our parents, best for our teachers.”

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.