- (FOX 9) - Teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota could strike on Tuesday, March 10 if they do not reach a new contract with the school district. Paul Federation of Educators.
- Paul teachers rallied to urge district leaders to delay the reopening of elementary schools, while Minneapolis educators, nurses and parents said they plan to hold daily news conferences this week to highlight their concerns.
- Search for a teacher below. Paul School District 45 20449 Main St. Paul, Oregon OR 97137 Phone: 503-633-2541 Fax: 503-633-2540 Email: [email protected]
Paul teachers union and Minnesota's second-largest school district reached a tentative contract agreement early Friday, ending a strike that began Tuesday and canceled classes for some. May 20, 2019 The St. Paul teacher who was caught on video using a racial slur at school has quit. Highland Park Middle School Spanish teacher Wendy Brilowski’s resignation is on the agenda for Tuesday’s.
The St. Paul Federation of Educators is pushing back on a plan to reopen the city’s public elementary schools in February.
Union leaders said Friday they’re “very concerned and disappointed” by the district’s plan and new guidance from Gov. Tim Walz.
St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard said Thursday that elementary schools would reopen Feb. 1, in accordance with state guidance that asserts young children can safely learn in-person even when coronavirus cases in the community remain high.
Union leaders pointed to the disparate impact the virus has had on people of color, who make up nearly 80 percent of students in the district.
“We must be very careful to make sure schools aren’t where children, even young children, catch the virus and bring it home to their parents and grandparents,” they said in a statement.
Health experts, however, say the risks of young children spreading the virus at school or falling seriously ill are relatively low, especially if they wear face masks, as the state requires.
Minnesota Department of Health data show no school-age children have died from COVID-19, and just 16 children ages 5-9 have been admitted to intensive care since the pandemic began — the fewest of any age group.
The union and school district recently agreed to a long list of working conditions and health and safety precautions in anticipation of moving to a hybrid schedule, with students in classrooms twice a week.
That deal does not apply to St. Paul’s new plan, which calls for full-time in-person learning.
“We expect the district to meet with us and other bargaining groups before Jan. 19 to ensure the proper safety measures are in place to protect students and educators,” the union said.
School district spokesman Kevin Burns said district leaders “absolutely are willing to have those conversations.”
Burns said a return to a fully in-person schedule can be done safely and is best for students academically, socially and emotionally.
“We believe the students and teachers belong and want to be in the classroom. That’s where they do their best work,” he said.
St Paul College Website
The St. Paul district has been in distance learning since early March, except for the brief return of a small number of special-education students.
St. Paul teachers' new tentative contract agreement, the details of which were released Thursday afternoon, would increase support staffing for some students and boost teacher wages, but it leaves many of the demands union leaders pushed for at the bargaining table unfulfilled.
Teachers nearly walked off the job this week in an attempt to lower class sizes, guarantee funding for alternative discipline programs and increase the ranks of non-teacher staff including social workers, nurses and counselors.
The two-year tentative agreement that union and district leaders reached Monday gives teachers a one percent pay increase each year on top of scheduled raises for years of experience and education.
District and union leaders agreed those raises will only apply to the second half of this year, rather than the entire year. That move saved the district just over $1 million, according to district human resources director Laurin Cathey. With the savings, district leaders agreed to add 30 teachers for students learning English. The contract agreement would also add 23 paraprofessionals for special education students.
The agreement does not include the lowered limits on class sizes teachers had sought. Instead, it would raise allowable average sizes for middle and high school classes while setting an upper limit on the number of students in any one class.
St. Paul teachers' union members are scheduled to vote on the tentative contract agreement Feb. 22. The St. Paul school board would then vote on the agreement in March.
Cathey said the entire agreement stayed within the district's budget of just over $2 million a year in added costs.
That budget constraint continually clashed with teacher demands during negotiations and nearly led to a strike Tuesday.
The most expensive parts of teachers' proposals were not the classic bargaining items of wages and benefits, but rather demands on class size and support staffing, according to a cost breakdown the school district posted early in negotiations.
Union president Nick Faber said teachers aren't done fighting for those issues. Still, Faber said teachers intend to work with district officials instead of waiting for another confrontation at the bargaining table.
'We have to get to a place where we're not doing the same thing every two years in the exact same way and expecting different outcomes,' Faber said.
The agreement includes a plan to seek more money from local corporations. During negotiations union leaders also pushed the district to place a tax referendum on the November ballot. Faber said teachers plan to launch a recruiting campaign to increase St. Paul schools' enrollment, which would increase revenue from the state.
'I think next time if we are able to partner on ways of creating more resources, we should see a less aggressive negotiations process,' the district's Cathey said.
Whether or not that happens will depend on all sides — union leaders, district officials and individual teachers' union members.
After narrowly averting a strike, at least one union member is re-evaluating the tactics that led St. Paul teachers to that point. Roy Magnuson said he resigned from the union's executive board in September in part because he thought leadership was being too aggressive.
'There is no doubt that our leadership is correct when they say that schools are underfunded. The question for many of us was ... is St. Paul Federation of Teachers unilaterally going out on strike going to change the underfunding?' said Magnuson, who teaches social studies at Como Park Senior High School. He added that a confrontational, 'us versus them' style can prevent cooperation.
Faber said 'the next few months will tell' how well union and district leaders can work together. Faber said he believes coming to the brink of a strike was effective, although he hopes the strategy is not needed in the future.
'If we're going to do the same thing time after time and just fold and say, 'That's ok,' nothing was going to change,' Faber said.
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