The Potluck

Rep. Ilhan Omar rallies in support of Minneapolis teachers during strike

By: - March 14, 2022 8:53 pm

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.”

Members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers sang and played instruments during a rally outside the Minneapolis Public Schools central office on March 14, 2022. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer

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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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.