Minneapolis teachers talk contract negotiations day after walkout

Minneapolis teachers talk contract negotiations day after walkout

Minneapolis teachers talk contract negotiations day after walkout

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) teachers spoke out against the district early Thursday morning, a day after staging a walkout at the end of the school day as contract negotiations continue.

RELATED: Teachers, support staff in Minneapolis plan to use ‘Walkout Wednesdays’ as escalation tactic in contract talks

According to MPS, the district needs to reduce $90 million in spending for the next year to remain financially sound, but the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) says that statement is “exaggerated at best and reckless at worst.”

Union leaders say members have been working without a contract for seven months and have been asking the district for a 16% pay increase over two years.

The union adds it commissioned an analysis of the district’s spending, and while the full findings are expected to be released later Thursday morning, MFT officials say in the last five years, MPS has projected a deficit each fall, adjusted that number throughout the year, and then posted a surplus the following summer.

The union emphasizes that raising pay is key to filling open teaching roles, reducing turnover and shrinking class sizes.

“This is why we’re on the ground, this is why we’re escalating. Right now, we have so many vacancies. That is not safe for our kids,” said Greta Callahan, president of MFT.

Contracts are negotiated every two years, but the one negotiated during the March 2022 strike was retroactive at the time and expired in June of 2023.

MPS issued the following response to the “Walkout Wednesday” tactic on its website:

“Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) supports MFT’s right to collective action. It is our understanding that the walkout will occur at the end of the teacher duty day and will not directly impact students. We remain committed to negotiating a contract with MFT that recognizes the increased cost of living, while also being mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of our limited resources – the result of systemic underfunding of public education.

“In the future, it is imperative we begin bargaining sooner, including over the summer, to avoid bargaining during budget season. We tried to begin bargaining last summer but that invitation was declined by MFT.

“MPS, like many districts, is facing a multi-million dollar gap due to federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (also known as COVID-19 funding) ending in September. MPS needs to reduce $90 million in spending for next year in order to remain fiscally solvent. We are presently in the midst of the budget process – determining where said reductions can be made while prioritizing the needs of students.

“Any settlement with MFT will increase the amount that needs to be reduced, and so it is imperative that all District proposals are made with intention. Additionally, the District is currently negotiating agreements with seven other bargaining groups. We’ve provided one proposal and one counterproposal to MFT so far, and we look forward to forthcoming sessions to reach agreements with MFT. We invite our community to review the session summaries and watch the livestreams as we are being as open and transparent as possible.”

Minneapolis Public Schools

During a news conference on Thursday morning, a member of the MFT said, “We are not in a fantasy world. We totally understand that Minneapolis isn’t flush with cash, but we also know that they’re not behaving like their peer districts. They are not spending money on students when they can be, they’re spending more money on on district administrators, on transportation, on outside contracts… And we have watched that harm the whole.”

The MFT member claimed that between 2021 and 2022, 20% of staff members left, as compared to St. Paul, which had only 13% of staff members leave. Those figures mean that 20% of staff in Minneapolis are newly licensed educators, while just 2% in St. Paul are newly licensed educators, the MFT member added.

Another MFT member who said she’s been working in MPS for 25 years said, “They are playing in our face when they have the budget that they have and the priorities that they are showing us by where they’re putting their money, and they need to invest in the kids and the stabilization that comes with paying teachers at least equal to what surrounding districts are. You cannot get away with this that long. You absolutely cannot.”

A link to the MFT report on Minneapolis Public Schools’ finances can be found HERE.

A full version of the news conference can be watched below.

Minneapolis teachers speak early Thursday morning on contract negotiations