UPDATE 8:47 P.M.
St. Paul Public Schools have announced they have reached a tentative 2-year deal with the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE), so there will be no strike in St. Paul on Tuesday.
While the school district said details of the detail would be revealed in the coming days, SPFE said it includes "class size language and caps, increased mental health supports, guaranteed recess time for students, one-time recognition payments to educators for their hard work over the past two years and increased compensation, particularly for educational assistants."
Educators in Minneapolis are going on strike starting Tuesday.
The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers confirmed at 6 p.m. Monday that strike action would start Tuesday after mediation sessions with Minneapolis Public Schools failed to yield an agreement during the 10-day cooling off period.
This will be the first time Minneapolis teachers have gone on strike in more than 50 years. A strike in St. Paul was averted after a deal was reached with 20 minutes to spare before the 9 p.m. deadline.
"While it is disappointing to hear this news, we know our organizations’ mutual priorities are based on our deep commitment to the education of Minneapolis students," a MPS statement said. "MPS will remain at the mediation table non-stop in an effort to reduce the length and impact of this strike."
Both the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals (MFT59) and St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) negotiated with their respective districts all weekend, presenting proposals and counter-proposals, and discussions continued on Monday ahead of the strike deadline.
This comes after unions on Feb. 17 voted to authorize a strike after progress stalled in contract negotiations in both districts over issues that include mental health support for students, limiting class sizes, paying support staff and hourly workers a living wage, retaining teachers of color, and competitive compensation for teachers to retain them, among other things.
Educators in both districts have said authorizing a strike was the only way to get the districts to take their demands seriously.
Both districts have pushed back against the unions' demands. In Minneapolis, Superintendent Ed Graff said the district can't afford increases in payroll or other costs, citing lower enrollment, underfunding of public education, and increased costs.
And St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard had echoed similar reasoning, saying last month educators deserve everything they're asking for but noted the district has fewer students, fewer resources, and less money to meet those needs.
Union members in both districts stressed they wanted to avoid a strike and were willing to mediate up until Tuesday to hopefully reach a settlement, but that wasn't the case in Minneapolis.
In Minneapolis, students will be able to get a meal bag with breakfast and lunch daily during the strike, starting Wednesday. The district will also have limited child care spots available on an emergency basis but parents are urged to find other child care options.
MPS says that parents should arrange child care for their children, as it can only offer "emergency PK-5 child supervision on an extremely limited basis" starting Wednesday, with parents who need this service told to contact their school.
MPS will continue to provide school-based clinic and mental health services.
Here's a look at the demands the unions were making during contract negotiations:
The demands Twin Cities educators are making mirror what many public school teachers and staff across the country have been seeking for years, which have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Related [Feb. 18]: Minneapolis, St. Paul educators vote to authorize strikes
Related [Jan. 21]: Educators in Minneapolis, St. Paul could strike amid contract negotiations
“It’s not going to get any better if we do nothing,” Greta Callahan, the teacher chapter president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said during a news conference last month, according to MPR News. “The alternative is for our students to continue to not receive the things that they deserve, and for enrollment to drop. We are offering systemic change.”
— The union is seeking living wages and better benefits for education support professionals (ESPs) and hourly workers at Minneapolis Public Schools. Shaun Laden, MFT59's education support professionals chapter president, said during a news conference last month, they'd like to see starting pay for ESPs be bumped up to $35,000 — currently, ESPs make about $24,000.
Paying ESPs more should help fill some openings and keep others from leaving the profession, the union says.
— Educators want the district to hire more counselors and social workers to improve mental health supports for students.
— It is also seeking a 20% pay increase for teachers. The union says better pay that's more comparable to what educators in nearby districts make will help with teacher retention — especially teachers of color, noting they've lost hundreds of teachers this year to other districts or jobs that pay more.
The average Minneapolis teacher earns a salary of $71,535 per year, according to the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board. The average teacher salary in St. Paul is $85,457, in Bloomington Public Schools it's $81,168 and in Minnetonka Public Schools it's $77,434.
According to MPR News, the union says based on the 2018-19 pay schedule, lifetime earnings for teachers in Minneapolis are less than those of teachers in most neighboring districts — over a 30-year teacher career, a teacher in Minneapolis will earn $386,000 less than a teacher in Minnetonka, $218,000 less than a teacher in Bloomington and $139,000 less than a teacher in St. Paul.
— The union is also seeking affordable quality healthcare for teachers and education support professionals, smaller class sizes, and safer COVID protocols.
In St. Paul, the SPFE is seeking similar priorities as MFT59. Their priorities include:
— Smaller class sizes. The union says this will reduce special educator workloads and allow teachers to give students more time and attention.
— Hiring bilingual and multilingual educators so educators and communicate with students and families in their home language to ensure educators are meeting students' needs
— Recruiting and retaining educators of color and anti-racism professional development for current educators so educators reflect the diversity of the community, and so educators have the training and support needed to support students of color.
— Expanding mental health teams at each school.