U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke at a rally outside the Minneapolis Public Schools district office during the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers strike on March 14, 2022. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer
Minneapolis Public Schools agreed to include class size caps in teacher contracts and adjust the pay structure for education support professionals, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers leadership announced Monday.
The offers are the district’s closest yet to the union’s demands — but as the strike stretches into a fifth day, the two parties still aren’t seeing eye to eye on those proposals or other central issues, like teacher salaries.
During a rally outside the district’s central office Monday, union members celebrated the offers as progress and pledged to continue the strike until all their demands are met. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke in support of the strike, telling the hundreds of people packing the street that Minneapolis Public Schools administrators should be ashamed that they’re taking so long to negotiate a “dignified” contract.
“Think about the indignity — the indignity of those who show up every single day to care for and educate our kids, begging for a living wage,” Omar said as the crowd yelled, “Shame.”
Higher pay for education support professionals, like special education assistants, has been a major point of contention in negotiations. The union is demanding the district raise minimum salaries from $24,000 to $35,000, which MPS estimates could cost up to $16 million.
The district has said it shares many of the union’s priorities, including boosting pay, but can’t afford to do so in the face of a projected multimillion-dollar budget deficit.
Shaun Laden, president of the union’s education support professional chapter, said Monday that MPS offered to reduce the number of ESP employee classifications from 18 to four. The union has sought consolidation for years, arguing that having so many job classifications resulted in unfair pay disparities.
“What’s next? It’s very straightforward. We hold the line,” Laden said during the rally.
The union’s class size proposal calls for writing class size caps — ranging from 18 preschoolers per class in high-poverty schools, to 30 high schoolers per class in low-poverty schools — into teacher contracts for the first time. According to the union, the district’s most recent offer would include class size caps for six schools; the union didn’t specify which schools.
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