On heels of pandemic school closings, Minneapolis Public Schools teachers strike reaches Day 10

For ten days now, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) are closed to students as teachers continue their strike in pursuit of smaller classes, bigger wages, and increased mental health support for the kids who have already spent the last two years dealing with virtual classes, mask mandates, and missed opportunities to socialize with their peers.

In what it has called its “last, best and final” offer to education support professionals (ESP) “that underscores the district’s commitment to honoring the contribution ESPs make to our schools and students,” MPS has offered to:

  • Increase starting wages for 85% of current ESPs to $23 per hour or more, bringing most full-time ESPs close to $35,000 per year
  • Increase wages over two years between 8.2% and 34.6% (depending on job classification), with an average increase of 15.6%
  • Advancement on the salary schedule (steps) for ESPs both years
  • Bump the hourly wages of the lowest-paid ESPs from $15.45 to $18.00
  • Pay ESPs $6,000 in bonuses ($3,000 in each of the next 2 years)

MSP shared the offer with union leaders, according to the statement released Sunday and states the salary increases are “aligned with MFT (Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals), MPS, and community value for livable wages.”

In addition, MPS is pledging $3.5 million to additional work hours for ESPs and is offering four more aid duty days for “professional development and collaboration,” which MPS says will offer ESPs the opportunity for more work.

“MPS is reaching beyond its financial means on behalf of our ESPs and will need to make more than $10 in reductions for the next school year as a result,” the statement reads.

But, as The Hill points out, MSP failed to address the issues of class sizes and mental health support.

“The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals (MFT) has not gone on strike in nearly 50 years and now is asking for pivotal changes they argue create, ‘safe and stable schools,'” The Hill reports.

The teachers’ demands include a request for more counselors, social workers, and psychologists to support students’ mental health in schools, as well as exemptions from excess and layoff procedures and increased mentoring to better support and retain educators of color.

In a “Bargaining Update” video posted to Facebook, MFT leaders stated they had passed on the offer and talks would resume Monday afternoon, after MPS called it an early night.

“This contract needs to get settled,” said MFT. “We want kids back in school and it feels like we’re the only ones who are acting like that right now.”

But they aren’t the only ones.

Forgotten in the process seems to be the children and the parents who are both eager to get the schools open.

“All the while, my second grader who is reading at a first grade level and my kindergartner who has struggles with conforming to the public educational setting both due to the pandemic continue to be negatively affected in their education by situations out of their control,” one frustrated parent posted on the MPR News Facebook page. “Both sides need to work to end this. Then I’ll believe they’re doing this for the students.”

Over on Twitter, one user stated, “[The teachers] enjoyed their paid 2 year Covid vacation very very much. Can you blame them for not wanting to go back to ‘work’?”

And another Twitter user offered another option that — in the wake of COVID, woke teachers on TikTok, and CRT curricula — is gaining support among many parents across the nation: “School Choice — fund students not unions.”

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