Hundreds of teachers, staff, parents and students demonstrated outside of more than 50 St. Paul public schools Wednesday to bring attention to ongoing contract negotiations with the district.
Organized by the St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) as "walk-ins," educators, students and parents walked to schools 30 to 45 minutes early for an informational picket and short rally, according to a statement.
Demonstrators wore red and held signs that read "St. Paul students can't wait for" followed by various hand-written demands aimed at improving their school's climate, according to social media posts.
Demands ranged from hiring more librarians, counselors, social workers and nurses, to addressing equity pay gaps, pre-K expansion and dual immersion.
The SPFT is currently negotiating their upcoming two-year contract with the district that begins in June.
The two groups mediated for two full days earlier this month on a variety of issues, which you can read more detail about on SPFT's website here. The next mediation date is scheduled for Thursday. Another mediation is scheduled for the week after.
According to the union, it and the district have agreed to the following so far:
- Parents need to be informed of the right to opt out their students for standardized testing
- The creation of a diverse school integration committee focused on racial equity
- Providing special educators with an additional hour of daily prep time
- Providing up to $100,000 to schools where teachers and parents want to propose redesigns
- Mailing pay stubs to teachers' homes
While these issues are still being negotiated:
- Further reductions to standardized testing and additional learning time that is lost due to test preparation
- Increasing compensation for immersion and dual-immersion teachers
- More recognition toward elementary specialists
- Extending paid parental leave
- Increasing the amount of Adult Basic Education classes taught by contracted teachers instead of part-timers
- Rejecting the district's personal leave proposal that prevents more than two teachers from taking a personal leave day at a time
- A more acceptable wage increase – the district is currently proposing a .5 percent increase per year
The district told BringMeTheNews in an email statement that there has been "positive movement" on several issues, and that they look forward to continuing the progress.
SPPS also said that the union and district agreed to not discuss contract mediation with the media outside of a joint statement, and they will continue to honor that agreement.
The Pioneer Press has more on what could happen next if things don't continue progressing.
According to the Star Tribune, this walk-in was one of 19 planned by union locals around the country as part of an effort organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a coalition of community, civil rights, labor and teacher organizations.