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Minneapolis teachers, district reach tentative deal to end strike

Bargaining teams with the teachers union and Minneapolis Public Schools are meeting to finalize a return to work plan to get educators and students back in school.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) have reached a tentative deal after a strike that kept students out of the classroom for 14 days.

The agreement was announced early Friday on the Minneapolis Public Schools website. Specific contract details weren't released, but MPS said the district is looking forward to "welcoming students and staff back to school on Monday, March 28." A vote by both the MFT and ESP chapters is needed to ratify the new deal. The union says it expects members to vote on the tentative agreements this weekend.

Friday afternoon, the MFT held a press conference to share updates from their side of the bargaining table. When asked if it was realistic to have students and teachers back in school on Monday, MFT Chapter President Greta Callahan said they'll be able to comment on the issue once the teachers' return to work plan is finalized.

ESP chapter president Shaun Laden outlined some of the "historic agreements" reached with the district, including pay raises for ESPs, seniority rights for associate educators, and increased hourly rates.

"The collective action of our members has shown that strikes work. We know that we needed fundamental change in MPS," Laden said. "We have said all along this is not only about the amount of money our district has but how they chose to use it.”

Callahan and Laden were pressed about how the new contracts will protect teachers of color, specifically Black teachers.

"Our historic gains in this contract around addressing things like seniority-based layoff protection for teachers of color is going to be a nation leading model that exempts teachers of color from seniority based layoff and excessing, and allows the next-least senior person who’s not covered by those protections to be the individual who is laid off or excessed," Laden explained.

As the bargaining teams work on a plan to get kids back in school, one of the issues they'll have to address is making up lost days. The district website says instructional time lost during the strike could be made up in several ways:

  • Using record keeping days as student contact days (record-keeping would be moved)
  • Adding minutes to the school day
  • Extending the end of the school year

Earlier in the day, MPS Superintendent Ed Graff said he hopes to notify families about plans to make up missed school days before the weekend.

High school graduate ceremony dates will not be impacted or moved.

At a press conference hosted by the district Friday morning, Graff and school board chairwoman Kim Ellison both addressed the challenges that educators, students and their families faced during the strike, and thanked the community for its patience and support.

"Thank you for your unmatched commitment to our students and to our district," Ellison said addressing district teachers Friday morning. "You are MPS.”

Graff said district officials heard from many parents during the work stoppage. "Priority number one was getting their children back in school," Graf shared. Secondly, he said they wanted to share their appreciation for the people who educate their children.

One of the union's priorities during negotiations was getting contract language to protect ESPs from being laid off or excessed when schools are forced to make cuts, many of whom are people of color and new to their jobs. When asked how the deal between the district and union addressed protections for teachers of color, Graff said, “you’ll see that we remained focused on that commitment. That was a priority. Once of the most significant priorities we talked about through the negotiation process.”

The work stoppage began on Tuesday, March 8 following months of contract negotiations between the teachers and school district failed to come up with a solution. The union had negotiated for things like enforceable contract language surrounding class size, mental health support, living wages for hourly educational Support Professionals, or ESPs, and competitive pay for licensed staff.

This is a developing story. KARE 11 will provide more details as new information becomes available.

More Minneapolis teacher strike updates

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