Union demands would force school district into $100 million hole

The Minneapolis School Board released a shocking statement this week about their negotiations with the teachers union:

MPS received a package of counter proposals from the MFT with a cost that remains more than $100 million beyond MPS’s financial ability. 

The union is asking for salary and benefit increases that would cost the district $100 million more than they can afford. You would think that data point would be leading the media coverage of the strike, but you would be wrong.

Media coverage of the strike is focused on low salaries for Education Support Professionals and disputes over mental health and class size limits. But the main financial sticking point is the union asking for a 5% raise in the first year of the teacher contract and a 4% raise in the second. They are also demanding an arbitrary $2,000 bonus for teachers each year. For what? Not teaching?

Instead of asking for more money, teachers in Minneapolis should take responsibility for the decline in enrollment in Minneapolis schools that began before COIVD and has accelerated since. There is a reason so many parents are making other educational choices, and the quality of teaching and learning is certainly part of that decision-making process. The district lost 5,000 students since 2019, a huge blow to the budget since the state provides funding based on student counts.

School Board Chair Kim Ellison said this week if they agreed to the union’s current demands, the school district would have to make $10 million in cuts next year, starting with teacher layoffs. Someone should remind teachers on the picket line about the system Minneapolis uses to decide which teachers get pink slips. It’s known as Last In, First Out. In other words, young teachers get laid off first.

Finally, it just needs to be said: it is appalling that Minneapolis teachers are on strike just as the pandemic is finally under control and life is returning to normal. Students have been suffering through two years of distance learning, mask-wearing, eating lunch at their desks, and documented loss of learning. Not to mention the fear, isolation and mental health challenges we’ve put them through, mostly unnecessarily.

The timing of this strike is cruel. And as we wrote about here, it’s also part of a larger plan to force the legislature to put more money into an educational system that has shown no desire or ability to improve.