Teacher contract negotiations heading to mediation

Move will close contract negotiations to the public

The ongoing contract talks between Minneapolis Public Schools and its teachers union are headed into mediation.

The move was announced in a statement released by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson Wednesday afternoon. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers informed district officials Monday they intended to ask the state’s Bureau of Mediation Services to intervene in the negotiations.

“It is [the district’s] preference to continue the negotiations process without going to mediation,” Johnson wrote in the statement. “Once the request for mediation has been filed, however, the school district is required to follow the [Bureau of Mediation Services] process.”

The talks, which regularly drew a group of citizen observers, will be closed to the public once they move into mediation. Most of the observers were affiliated with the Contract for Student Achievement, a group advocating for contract reform.

The teachers union made a preliminary filing for mediation over the school district’s winter break, but did not act on it until now. At the time, union President Lynn Nordgren described the move as a means of applying “just a slight little pressure” on the district.

It’s not unusual for state mediators to become involved in contract negotiations between school districts and their teachers unions.

In January, when he was discussing the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers filing, Commissioner of Mediation Services Josh Tilsen noted state mediators helped to negotiate the last two teachers contracts in Minneapolis. At the time, there were around 60 open petitions for mediation in teacher contract talks, Tilsen added.