Lauren Moye, FISM News
School buses heading into Minneapolis schools honked in support as they drove past a picket line of local school teachers. This is now the 11th school day that educators within Minneapolis Public Schools have been on strike, causing classes to be canceled for approximately 31,000 students within the district as the teachers demand higher wages and better benefits for themselves and support staff.
Journalist Luigi Morris shared the footage on Twitter:
— Luigi W Morris (@LuigiWMorris) March 21, 2022
It’s the first strike that the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals (MFT) has initiated in over 50 years. “Our schools are stronger when we all have the tools we need to succeed,” their negotiation priority sheet reads. “Our cross-chapter bargaining priorities focus on what is necessary for our schools to be safe and stable spaces in which our students and staff feel respected, protected, and connected to our community of learners.”
The teachers are protesting in hopes of securing a variety of changes, including mental health support, better benefits, a higher salary, smaller classes, and support to retain minority teachers.
They are also hoping to negotiate better contracts for the education support professionals (ESP), including raising the starting pay to $35,000 a year and making 90% of ESP positions full-time.
Among their requests are a 12% pay increase, a base salary increase for education support professionals, and new class size limits. They are asking for lower health insurance premiums for the ESP, noting they “should not pay the same for [health insurance] as admin making $100,000 plus.”
On Sunday, the school system posted its “last, best, and final offer.” Their offer would raise the hourly wages for “85% of current ESPs” to $23 per hour while the lowest-paid ESPs would receive a raise to $18 an hour. It would also include $6000 in bonuses and a 15.6% salary increase over the next two years.
The school system notes they would have to make “$10,000 million in reductions” and that it “is reaching beyond its financial means” to make this offer.
The MFT rejected the offer on Sunday night. The chapter’s president Shaun Laden stated, “While we appreciate MPS getting to where they are, we know they can get to $35,000 for ESPs. It won’t take much more on their part to settle this strike and get our students and educators back to school. We believe we can get this done.”
Local news station KSTP reported that the teacher’s union is also working to get correct wording in the contracts to ensure any changes are permanent. Until negotiations are settled, classes for pre-K through 12th grade will be canceled.
“We haven’t gotten what we have needed all these years, and I am kind of excited that things are moving. But also worried because of our kids, we’d rather be in the classroom,” said Minneapolis school teacher Mary Brownrigg to local news station KSTP.
However, Republican Minnesota congress candidate Jennifer Carnahan called the request “appalling,” “shortsighted,” and “selfish” for potentially impacting rural Minnesota school systems in a statement to Fox News. She said, “Minneapolis Public Schools have already offered more than they can afford, so it sadly appears no end is in sight.”
Another congressional candidate, Republican Jerry Evans from Illinois, used the strike as an opportunity to promote school choice. He said, “Students being denied an education due to a labor dispute shows the fundamental flaws in denying students school choice.”