Negotiations continue Friday in Minneapolis teacher strike

Members of the Minneapolis School District and the teacher union are expected to meet again Friday as teachers picket for a fourth day.

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Teachers took their message to Roosevelt High School Friday morning after they gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis Thursday.

Teachers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they have no plans to stop until their concerns are heard, and right now, they say they’re not any closer to reaching a deal.

Rallies have been held for the past four days, and the Union President now says the school board is becoming more involved in talks, and she described that as a positive game changer.

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Union leaders provided an update shortly after 10 a.m. Friday, right before they headed into negotiations.

Negotiations include union leaders, MPS bargaining leaders, the Board of Education and Superintendent Ed Graff. The district says proposals are being reexamined, and will be discussed with both MFT and ESP later in the day Friday, adding the ESPs joined MPS at the bargaining table Thursday morning.

As of this point, the union says they’re hoping to be met with a counter proposal Friday, and will keep fighting until that happens.

“The status quo can’t hold. What we’re doing right now is not working. We understand this is though for folks, but what’s on the other end of this is a much better school system,” said Shaun Laden, the President of the ESP Chapter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. “We have not seen a counter proposal on any of our main issues since not this past Tuesday, but last Tuesday. That is reckless, that is dangerous for the students of Minneapolis, and we expect more from the people inside this building right now.”

Union President Greta Callahan says they want to see changes put into contract language so it is enforceable.

Leaders with the teachers union and school district have more than seven hours of negotiations scheduled Friday, as well as more meetings throughout the weekend.

Meanwhile, the district continues to point to extreme differences in what they say the union is asking for, and what they say they can provide.

The school district says it is examining school-by-school data regarding instructional time being lost to the strike, and will determine when it is made up. State law requires at least 165 instruction days for students in grades 1-11.

As of Friday, the district wrote that most seventh and eighth grades, as well as some of the high schools, have no extra days or hours on their calendars, so any time lost due to the strike will have to be made up. However, the district adds elementary grades have 170 instruction days scheduled, which means no time needs to be made up if the strike lasts for five days or less.

Time lost due to the strike will be made up either over spring break, extending the school year, reducing professional development days, or other means that meets the state’s requirements.

Joseph Daly, an Emeritus Law Professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who is also an expert in arbitration and mediation, says mediation could last for days, or even weeks – however, if no progress is being made, then both sides could go to arbitration, which is essentially a judge hearing a case and making a decision.

“We have some really good mediators at the State of Minnesota Bureau fo Mediation Services, we really do,” said Daly. “These are full-time people who know what they’re doing. But even they, I’m sure, are going home at night saying I don’t… God, will I ever get this resolved? But ultimately they have to. The teachers cannot remain on strike.”

Daly says at some point, the teachers and the district will have to find a way to come together.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS will continue to update this story throughout the day.