It's looking like the Minneapolis teacher and Education Support Professional (ESP) strike will continue into Monday, with no agreement with Minneapolis Public Schools reached as of Sunday afternoon.
Picket lines are once again set to begin at 7:30 a.m. Monday, with a noon rally set to be held at The Davis Center on West Broadway Avenue, with Rep. Ilhan Omar the featured speaker.
Speaking to FOX 9 Sunday morning, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 president Greta Callahan said she didn't believe a deal would be reached Sunday, criticizing Minneapolis Public Schools for putting forward what she describes as "HR people, data scientists and lawyers deciding on what's best for kids."
"We need the elected leaders and the superintendent (Ed Graff) in this space making a deal for us today," she said. "We're ready to go, we have them a framework yesterday, we've been crystal clear on our priorities."
On Saturday, Minneapolis Public Schools provided an update to the negotiations, saying it's offered a 8% pay bump for ESPs that it says would bring its lowest paid ESP up to $18-an-hour and give all ESPs a one-off $3,000 bonus, as well as giving some the chance to increase their hours up to 40 hours a week.
But MFT 59 is wants to see ESP pay increase from the current $24,000 average to $35,000, which they say is the union's "number one priority," and is vital to ensure schools can retain support staff members.
MFT also wants a 20% increase in teachers' pay to bring it more in line with other metro districts (average teacher pay in St. Paul is $85,457 compared to $71,535 in Minneapolis), but MPS' latest offer was a pay increase of 7.4% over the next two years, a rate that is expected to be lower than inflation this year alone, as well as a $50,000 minimum starting salary.
Callahan criticized MPS for the figures it's sharing on its website regarding the negotiations, accusing it of inflating the union's demands by including, for example, the 3.4% step advancement, which is something she says has "absolutely nothing to do with this contract."
MPS has argued that it's facing a significant funding shortfall of $59.5 million in 2022/23, reduced to $21.5 million thanks to federal COVID funding.
This funding shortfall over the coming years is in part due to declining enrollment, but Callahan argues that failing to invest in teachers, support staff, and children's mental health would make the situation worse.
"They're headed in that direction [of a funding crisis] and we're intervening and saying: 'If you don't do something different, if you don't invest in our children and those close to them, you will no longer exist,'" she told FOX 9.
Education Support Professionals chapter president Shaun Laden told FOX 9 that some of the proposals made by MPS look good, but at this point would only benefit a minority of ESPs.
Callahan also said that any claims that the strike will result in teaching having to happen during the spring break holidays is untrue, as any makeup days would have to be approved as part of negotiations with the union.
The latest MPS offer includes $3 million to increase mental health support for students, and a proposal to cap class sizes "at our highest need schools." Educators want the district to hire more counselors and social workers to improve mental health supports for students.
Teachers have rallied outside the State Capitol this past week, calling on the Legislature to approve enhanced education funding, after it emerged Minnesota has a budget surplus of more than $9 billion.