students return to Minneapolis schools after historic three-week strike | Education News

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Students return to school in Minneapolis on Tuesday after teachers’ union leaders and city officials reached an agreement to end a three-week strike over low pay, lack of diversity among teachers, large class sizes and student mental health issues.

The labor dispute was the first in the city for half a century and kept almost 30,000 children out of classrooms for 14 school days.

“We know this is not just historic for how long we’ve been away, for some of the gains we’ve had, but also for the unity of our chapters,” Minnesota Teachers’ Federation President Greta said. Callahan. “We shouldn’t have gone on strike to win any of these things, any of these essential supports for our students. But we did, and everyone sees it now.”

“We are happy, but we know it’s not enough,” she said. “It’s not creating the schools our students deserve, but it’s definitely a step closer.”

Minneapolis Public Schools, the Minneapolis Teachers Federation and its Education Support Professionals Chapter signed a new contract agreement and return-to-work plan over the weekend.

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The agreement increases the starting salary for education support professionals from $19.83 per hour to $24 per hour, which would raise the annual starting salary from $24,000 to nearly $35. $000, plus a one-time bonus of $6,000. The teachers’ new contract includes a 2% base salary increase for this year – which will be applied retroactively – as well as a 3% increase for 2023 and a one-time bonus of $4,000.

The negotiated deal also limits class sizes and includes layoff protections for newly hired educators of color who, under the so-called “last in, first out” policy, would otherwise be among the first to lose. their jobs if the school system were forced to make staff cuts in the future.

Following the three-week strike, the end of the school year has been extended from June 10 to June 24, and to save even more time, the school day will be 42 minutes longer from April 11.

“Nothing is more important to the MPS community right now than getting our students back to their classrooms,” Minneapolis school superintendent Ed Graff said in a statement.

The labor dispute ends as school districts across the country grapple with disruption caused by fewer educators and school staff — some lured by companies like Amazon that offer better wages and benefits, and others who are retiring early or resigning due to the stressors the pandemic has introduced to K-12 schools.

Last week, teachers and support staff in Sacramento staged a strike over low pay and health care benefits. The labor dispute, which is still ongoing, has locked out 40,000 students from the school since Wednesday.

Acknowledging the uproar, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona sounded the alarm Monday, urging states, school districts, colleges and universities to use U.S. bailout funding to stave off job quits. teachers, hire more staff, offer bonuses and pay raises, and expand the educator pipeline.

“I’ve always known that a well-prepared, well-supported, well-compensated and diverse workforce of educators is the foundation for student success,” Cardona said.

“Educator vacancies and other staffing shortages present a real challenge as our schools struggle to recover, falling hardest on students of color, students from rural communities, students from backgrounds low-income, students with disabilities and multilingual learners,” he said. “I call on states, districts, and institutions of higher learning to use ARP funds to address teacher shortages and increase the number of teacher candidates ready to enter the teaching profession.”

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