Support our teachers


“We’ve gotta keep the schools open. … When we don’t have [open schools], boredom sets in. And boredom is no excuse for carjacking.” These were the words of Mayor Frey in January of this year when he advocated keeping schools open during the recent omicron surge. He was connecting the high rate of criminal behavior, specifically carjackings, to schools having remote instruction in the year prior. His interpretation was that remote learning caused kids to be bored and pursue criminal activity as a form of entertainment. In a previous article I addressed how much this ignored the trauma and stress faced by many children and their families during the pandemic. But I failed to point out another important factor: teachers.
To be sure, teachers come in all varieties – some are good, some are bad, some are awful, and some are outstandingly awesome. All of these teachers are on the front lines of helping the children in our communities deal with the unprecedented mental health impact of the last two years. Teachers are telling us that the children in their care need more resources, among other demands. The failure of the district to meet those demands thus far are bringing us ever closer to a teacher strike.
Specifically, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is demanding:
• A living wage for ESPs who work in roles such as associate educator, child care assistant and special education assistant.
• Recruitment and retention of educators of color.
• Mental health supports.
• Enforceable class size language in the Teacher/ESP Contract.
• Moving more ESPs to 40 hours per week and paid time off to attend staff meetings and for licensed staff to collaborate.
• Improved COVID safety and workload.
• Competitive compensation.
The Minneapolis school board has indicated that they would love to agree to the demands, but they just don’t have enough money to pay for them, which makes me wonder why they were so quick to approve the redistricting plan last year, estimated to cost $11.5 million in the first year of implementation, without even taking the time to run it by an independent auditor for equity – the stated goal of the plan.
There is some reason for hope, however – the state of Minnesota has a projected budget surplus of $9.25 billion for the current two-year budget cycle, up from the $7.7 billion surplus estimated in December. Surely we can find some money for our schools in that surplus, especially since even Mayor Frey can figure out that a strong school system is a useful tool against crime.
Our teachers need our support in the coming weeks. Here, from an MPS staff member, are some ways you can help:
1. Reach out to your school board members and ask them to direct the MPS negotiation team to be maximally flexible in the negotiating positions of the district. There should be no non-negotiables. This is no time to seek some kind of policy “win” at the expense of children.
2. Write to our esteemed state senator, Patricia Torres Ray, and state representatives Emma Greenman and Jim Davnie, asking them to call on the governor to fight for the kind of educational funding that our students – your children – deserve. They have always supported educators, but they still need to hear from us.
3. Call or write Gov. Tim Walz to fight for strong schools around the state by dedicating a great deal more money to the student formula given that we have a projected $9.25 billion budget surplus. That’s right. We have 9.25 billion extra dollars that need not go toward tax cuts when we plainly have needs right in front of us.
4. Call on Superintendent Ed Graff and the school board to develop an effective plan to reclaim students that we have lost to other districts and area charter schools. It is time to showcase our city’s great teachers, great support staff and great schools. It’s time to show how proud we are of the world-class education that kids receive here.
5. Finally, current state law requires districts to pay for special education services that a student receives OUTSIDE the district. Yes, that’s correct – MPS is required to pay for special education services even when parents take their kids to charter schools or other districts. Worse, charter schools have NO incentive to create high quality special education programming. If a special needs student enrolls at a charter school the school can pocket those funds, while often telling parents “we don’t have the programming your child needs.” Many of these vulnerable students end up right back in MPS without the money needed to serve them.
Ask Sen. Torres Ray and Reps. Davnie and Greenman to study this issue deeply and, under the right circumstances, to support bills like HF 2357 which cap how much MPS must pay when/if students leave. This could help MPS recover a lot of lost money.
On March 8, if they are not able to reach an equitable contract, I will be bringing hot coffee to the teachers on the picket line and I ask you to join me.

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