District, teachers union continue negotiations

Minneapolis Public Schools

School district leaders and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers continue negotiating a contract for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

Negotiators have discussed everything from class sizes and teacher pay to preparation time and hiring practices. They have not yet reached any agreements.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is the district’s largest union, representing its licensed teachers, nurses, social workers and speech pathologists. State law requires that teachers unions’ collective bargaining agreements be for two years.

As part of negotiations, the union has asked the district to lower class sizes, provide more unconstrained teacher prep time before the school year, increase benefit contributions and provide licensed school nurses in every building. It has also asked for a 5% across-the-board pay increase for each school year.

District leaders say the union’s asks would cost over $134 million, which is well above

its $24 million spending authority for the two-year deal.

The two sides have also discussed proposals that aim to increase the number of teachers of color in the district. Currently, approximately 17% of the district’s teachers are non-white, compared with over 65% of its students. Researchers have found that students benefit from having a teacher of the same race or ethnicity. One study found that black students who have just one black teacher in elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school.

The district says its current hiring practices, as agreed upon in its contract with the teachers union, make it harder for it to hire external teachers of color. That’s because, the district says, the contract mandates a long internal hiring process that gives its largely white workforce the first chance to apply for open positions.

School leaders have also reported that they are not able to “shield” newer teachers of color during budget cuts, because of seniority rules.

The teachers union has countered with a proposal to provide teachers of color with layoff protections. The district rejected this proposal, saying that taking employment action based on race is likely “contrary to law.”

The contract negotiations come more than a year after the district and the teachers union agreed to a labor agreement for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. That contract, for which the two sides entered mediation, included 0.5% pay increases for each of those school years.

Teachers are paid based on their years of experience and their levels of educational attainment. A first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, for example, makes $43,605 in the district, while a 10th-year teacher with a master’s degree makes $69,126.

The average teacher salary in MPS in 2018-19 was $70,659, according to Minnesota Department of Education data. That’s the 13th highest average of any public school district in the state, though it’s slightly below nearby districts such as Edina and St. Paul.