As the school week came to an end last Friday, parents of students throughout Minneapolis were unsure whether or not school would be in session the following week. Talks of a mounting strike ran amuck as Minneapolis teachers negotiated demands with district officials. Unfortunately, as neither groups were able to come to an agreement, the district’s estimated 3,300 teachers walked off the job Tuesday morning on strike.
Citing ongoing exhaustion, wages, class size, and mental health as the topics on demand for Minneapolis teachers, negotiations were reported to have gone on through the weekend to no avail. Picketing outside their designated schools, the city’s teachers union mounted a historic strike that hadn’t been seen in the Twin Cities in more than 50 years. At the brunt of the strike is the estimated 29 thousand students who woke up this morning to discover the news.
According to the Associated Press, the district advised parents to arrange their own child care today. Starting tomorrow, the district will offer emergency child supervision for students in preschool through fifth grade. However, they made note that the availability would be very limited. Furthermore, the district would continue to provide breakfast and lunch for those who could make it to their schools to be picked up throughout the ongoing Minneapolis teacher’s strike.
Wages were just one of the topics on the menu for negotiations between the district and Minneapolis teachers. Surprisingly, it wasn’t necessarily the wages of teachers that were an issue among the union. Instead, the teachers are pushing for higher pay for supporting staff within the schools. The Minneapolis union has been seeking a starting salary of $35 thousand for supporting staff. This would be an $11 thousand increase from what the city already pays, as the Union claims the increased wages to be “essential” to hiring and retaining people of color. Similarly, the teacher’s demands look to hire more nurses, counselors, and social workers to address the increasing student mental health challenges faced within the district.
Class sizes also go along with the increased proposed budget and the need for more support staff for Minneapolis teachers. According to one report, the average ratio inside Minneapolis classrooms is estimated to be 16 kids to each teacher. Educators have stated that this ratio is too high for the demands of students. Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association said that the children deserved a classroom size small enough for “one-to-one” attention. She also suggested that the school district could combat this ratio by investing in the recruitment and retention of educators of color. “MPS has the resources to make these investments. The question is whether they value Minneapolis students as much as their educators do,” she said.
As the negotiations fervently continue, district officials have remained adamant that while they also wish to provide all the support and resources demanded by the Minneapolis teachers, they ultimately cannot afford all of the demands. Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff made a statement earlier as he reiterated that the heads would remain in talks with union officials in order to end the strike as quickly and efficiently as possible. “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,” said Graff.