Both school officials and union leaders made it clear that they were not in agreement on issues such as class sizes caps and more mental healthcare services for students. An extended walkout by the 3,300 teachers could be interpreted as a return of struggle to balance work and family life for the 29,000 students of one of Minnesota's largest schools districts.
Molly Dengler, Molly's first-grader, said that all of us have real jobs. Her son is enrolled at a Spanish immersion elementary school downtown Minneapolis. "Maybe they could call out of the work today, but it's not sustainable for them to keep calling out of jobs."
Dengler is co-president for the parent-teacher association at her son's school. She said that the PTA uses WhatsApp to notify parents, connect them with child-care and help them organize learning group.
Teachers in Minneapolis make an average salary of more than $71,000 annually. According to the union, this places them among the lowest-paid in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. The union wants a starting salary of 35,000 for educators support workers, as opposed to the $24,000 currently being offered. Officials say that this is necessary in order to retain and hire people of color.
Greta Callahan (president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers' teachers' chapter) said that the strike was for safe and stable schools. She spoke outside the middle school where over 100 union members and their supporters had gathered in freezing temperatures.
No talks were scheduled.
Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, stated that parents and students across the country have relied upon school nurses, support staff, and educators to make the COVID-19 epidemic a success.
Weingarten stated, "How can you attract Black and Brown teachers if your wages aren't living wages?"
Ed Graff, School Superintendent, said that there would be a $26million budget gap for next year. This would amount to $97 million if no federal funding is available. He stated that the teacher proposals would be approximately $166 million more than what is currently budgeted.
"We have all the priorities we want to make happen. We don't have enough resources. Graff stated that someone has to be able say, "I'm sorry, but I can't do this,"
According to the district, it lost 3,000 students in the pandemic. This led to a reduction of state aid.
The Association of Metropolitan Schools Districts states that the combined deficit of the Twin Cities-area school districts is more than $230 millions for the 2022-23 school years. The Association of Metropolitan School Districts cited the high costs of English learning programs and special education, as well as the inability of the state to keep up with inflation.
Teachers and administrators in the St. Paul district with 34,000 students reached a tentative deal late Monday night to avoid a strike. Teachers union representatives claimed that the agreement would increase pay, keep class sizes under control and provide mental health support.
Minneapolis advised parents to make arrangements for child care and provided bagged breakfasts or lunches that could be picked up at schools.
Bryan Altman and Suzanna Altman are planning to enroll their third grade daughter Annette for a camp that offers science and technology classes and activities. Both the Altmans work in technology and Annette was able to get through her first and second grade years without having to travel. They worked remotely and created a mini pod together. They consider themselves fortunate to have "a lot resources available to us", including willing grandmothers.
Mark Spurlin, a father of twins aged 6 and 7, said that it might be difficult to make it through an indefinite strike. He and Megan would need day care for their boys, which would cost them between $50-60 per day.
Spurlin, a suburban teacher who was at home with COVID-19 when strike began, said that he could take a leave, which would not be paid, to be with the boys.
Spurlin, a Black teacher, stated that his first job was in the Minneapolis district, but that he was fired a few years back due to budget cuts. He stated that the district must find a way to retain teachers of color, while also addressing current seniority rules that adversely affect them.
"Minneapolis has an issue. Minneapolis Public Schools also has a problem. Spurlin stated that if there is a strike to resolve the issue, I completely understand. "But we're just a small family unit -- we want support, but we also need to do a lot to make it work.