Minneapolis teachers to strike Tuesday; St. Paul educators, district reach a deal

Minneapolis teachers are going on their first strike in more than 50 years after they and the school district could not agree to terms on a new contract in time for the Monday deadline. But over in St. Paul, the teachers union and school district were able to reach a tentative deal, averting a strike.

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The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers announced the strike after contract negotiations with Minneapolis Public Schools fell through.

Teachers are seeking support for student mental health, smaller class sizes and pay raises.

“For almost two years, we’ve been trying to reach agreements around safe and stable schools for students and those closest to them, but the administration has stubbornly defended an unacceptable status quo,” MFT President Greta Callahan said in a statement.

Minneapolis educators will start picketing at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The strike means no classes either online or in person for the roughly 29,000 students in the district, which is one of Minnesota’s largest.

“While it is disappointing to hear this news, we know our organizations’ mutual priorities are based on our deep commitment to the education of Minneapolis students,” MPS said in a statement. “MPS will remain at the mediation table non-stop in an effort to reduce the length and impact of this strike.”

MPS said it can only offer emergency child care for pre-K through fifth-grade learners “on an extremely limited basis” and that parents will need to arrange care for their children. Meal bags with breakfast and lunch will be available for pick-up at each student’s school. However, those services will not be available until Wednesday.

The school district will also keep school-based clinics and mental health services running, and online activities will be available to keep students occupied during the strike.

The tentative agreement between the St. Paul Federation of Educators and St. Paul Public Schools keeps class size language and caps, increases mental health support and guarantees recess for students, SPFE said in a statement. The deal also includes pay raises for staff and a one-time bonus “for their hard work over the past two years.”

“This agreement could have been reached much earlier. It shouldn’t have taken a strike vote, but we got there,” said St. Paul Federation of Educators President Leah VanDassor said in a statement. “Educators and parents knew the last thing our students needed were larger class sizes, fewer supports and more educators leaving the profession. We were able to settle a contract that invests in our students and recognizes the hard work of St. Paul educators, especially our educational assistants.” 

The tentative agreements for teachers and educational assistants still need to be approved by the full SPFE membership and the Board of Education.

SPPS said school will remain in session Tuesday.

“I am thankful that both bargaining teams were able to work together and come up with solutions that honor what is best for our students,” SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard said in a statement. “I believe we have arrived at fair and equitable agreements that respect our collective desire to do right by our students, while working within the district’s budget and enrollment limitations.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.