Minneapolis teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) have been voting on a proposed agreement with Minneapolis Public Schools that would end the educator strike after almost three weeks.
It was announced Friday that a tentative agreement had been struck between MPS and the MFT 59 union, a deal that included increases in pay for teachers and ESPs, class size caps, enhanced mental health support, and protections for educators of color.
After initially jumping the gun and sending a message to parents on Friday that stated school would resume on Monday, MPS sent out a clarifying message Saturday that stated Monday would be a transition day for teachers, with school resuming Tuesday.
Union members started voting on the deal Saturday, with voting set to continue until 4 p.m. Sunday, at which point it should become clear whether the deal has been accepted and classes can resume.
Attention is also turning to how the lost class time will be made up in the event the deal passes, with MPS saying the following makeup schedule has been proposed, which is subject to board approval:
- Classes will be held on Apr. 1 – which was initially going to be a teacher instructional day/the start of spring break. The instructional day would be held on Saturday, Apr. 23.
- 42 minutes added to the end of each school day from Apr. 11 for the rest of the school year.
- The school year is extended to June 24 (was originally going to be June 10, with June 13-15 as possible overflow days).
What's in the proposed contract?
Among the agreements struck was changes to ESP pay to bring it "very close to" the $35,000 MFT 59 was seeking, the union said.
The starting wage for ESPs will rise from $19.83 to $23.91 an hour, with temporary agreements – which will need to be renegotiated next year – struck to increase ESP working hours. ESPs will also get $6,000 bonuses, with those serving more than 10 years getting another $1,000.
Teachers will get a 2% salary bump in the first year of the contract and 3% in the second year, as well as getting a $4,000 bonus in the first year.
While this salary rise is the highest Minneapolis teachers have received since the turn of the century, it nonetheless remains below the rate of inflation, and still leaves Minneapolis teachers significantly trailing the pay of teachers in the likes of St. Paul, Bloomington, and Edina.
There are also agreements in place to impose a cap on class sizes, with provisions in place to keep class sizes smaller in schools with higher proportions of students on free or reduced-price lunches.
There remain exemptions in place however for class sizes to exceed the cap provided other accommodations are made to mitigate the impact, such as providing additional ESP support, or providing additional preparation time.
An agreement was reached on mental health support in elementary schools. MFT 59 says the deal would also mean at least one social worker placed in every school in the city, with a ratio of 1 social worker for every 600 students, reducing for 1 for every 250 at schools with the highest proportion of students who qualify for educational benefits.
And language is also included in the proposal that would provide protections for teachers of color, which the Star Tribune notes would exempt them from "seniority-based layoff and excessing."