Why Do Minnesota Schools Still Cancel Classes for the Teachers’ Union?

It’s MEA week in Minnesota, the annual fall ritual in which schools statewide cancel two  classroom days in deference to the annual meeting of the most powerful public employee union in the state, Education Minnesota.

The radical union likes to bill it as a time of professional development with this year’s session headlined by Eddie Moore, Jr., director of The Privilege Institute and White Privilege Conference.

But coverage in the Star Tribune points to potential cracks in the teachers’ union lock on time off to further its interests.

Minnesota schools’ long tradition of canceling two days of classes for an annual teachers conference will continue this week — even though the conference has been permanently shortened to a one-day event.

Until last year, the Minnesota Educator Academy, or MEA, was held on a Thursday and Friday in mid-October. That changed, when Education Minnesota, the teachers union that puts on the conference, scaled the event back to a Thursday-only gathering, and limited it to union members and student affiliates. Union leaders said at the time that the shift was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that exempted nonunion public employees from having to pay for collective bargaining.

Just three other states still do it–New Jersey, North Dakota and Wisconsin.  In fact, it’s the state law in  New Jersey But at least the union holds events on both days rather than giving teachers a three-day weekend as Minnesota does now.

Whenever any full-time teaching staff member of any board of education of any local school district or regional school district or of a county vocational school or any secretary, or office clerk applies to the board of education by which he is employed for permission to attend the annual convention of the New Jersey Education Association, such permission shall be granted for a period of not more than two days in any one year and he shall receive his whole salary…

Last year the Utah Education Association eliminated its annual fall union convention.

“This was a difficult decision for our Board,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “For more than 100 years, Utah teachers have gathered annually in a statewide convention for professional learning and social networking. However, the statewide convention format is now proving difficult for many, as evidenced by declining UEA Convention attendance in recent years.”

Most of Minnesota’s biggest school districts have already penciled MEA into their prospective schedules for the next few years. Students could benefit more than ever from those two lost classroom days, given the disappointing results of achievement tests released in August.

Yet the Star Tribune notes that one large metro district plans to go its own way next year.

…But the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district, the state’s fourth-largest, has opted to change plans next year. The calendar approved for the 2020-21 school year includes regular school days on both the planned MEA conference date and the Friday that follows it.

District spokesman Tony Taschner said the district’s calendar committee recommended the shift because of “uncertainty” about the future of the teachers conference — and because it allowed the district to add a day to the holiday break and cut a day off the end of the school year.

Education Minnesota may want to take a cue from the national union, which holds its annual convention in the summer. You may recall American Experiment greeted the 2018 National Education Association convention in Minneapolis with billboards highlighting the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision that freed teachers from mandatory union fees.

In one respect, most Education Minnesota members have already declared their freedom from the union. Just 3,000 of the Education Minnesota’s 57,000 teachers were expected to show up at MEA this year.