Minneapolis teachers strike: Board of Education says they need help from state

It's another day at the bargaining table for Minneapolis educators and the district.

Despite some progress last week, teachers remain dissatisfied with the district's offer, while Minneapolis Public School leaders are casting blame on the state for failing to maintain proper funding for schools statewide.

In a Sunday evening news conference, Minneapolis Board of Education Treasurer Kimberly Caprini placed the blame squarely on state leaders, saying the district is trying to work within its means.

"We know that without the support from the state specifically to close special education and English language learner service funding gaps, we will continue to financially struggle year after year," said Caprini. "We know this shows up in our classrooms. It is our students and staff that end up bearing the burden."

"These funding issues, unfortunately, are not exclusive to Minneapolis," Caprini added. "Minnesota does not fully fund the cost of education. Funding increases have not kept up with the cost of inflation for decades."

Minneapolis school leaders say they realize their offer doesn't mean the standards of the teachers union, but say they've reached their limits.

"We understand some people are wanting to take an even bigger risk," Caprini explained. "Much bigger financial risk in the hopes that... the state's increase will come in our assessment. Any further permanent spending would not be responsible."

Teachers say the district has the power to end the strike immediately

The union shared Friday there is small progress, but it's up to the district to respond with a proposal to meet their demands.

"We came in [Saturday] ready to see stronger choices from the district, and we did for about a second. They gave us something that for the first time ever talked about putting some of our class size language into the contract," Minneapolis Federation of Teachers President Greta Callahan said. "It’s not exactly where we want to be, but it was easy for us then to give a very clear framework for what they could work off of to settle this contract right now and get everybody back in the classrooms tomorrow."

Negotiations lasted into Sunday evening but with no agreement ahead of the start of a second week of strikes. The union says the barrier in negotiations isn't just about the numbers, but about the mindset of the district.

"It’s educators, it’s families, it’s students who need to make the priorities for how we run our district," added Shaun Laden with the MFT. "It’s an ideological entrenchment on behalf of management that they have to have total control."

MPS: Strike's impact on the school calendar

As students do not have class while the educators strike, some are concerned with if and when the missed time will be made up.

The state law states that the district must include at least 165 days of instruction for students in grades 1-11.

MPS says most seventh and eighth graders, as well as some high schoolers, have no extra days or hours on their calendars. That means the schools will need to make up the time lost due to the strike in order to reach the required 165 days.

For elementary grades at MPS, no time will need to be made up if the strike lasts for five days or less since they have 170 instructional days scheduled. If a contract agreement doesn’t wrap up Sunday, Monday would be the fifth day of the strike.

The district says loss instructional time will need to be made up over spring break, by extending the end of the school year, reducing professional development days, or another strategy that will meet the state's requirements.

MPS documents for families:

First Minneapolis teachers strike in 50 years

More than 4,500 educators are on strike for higher wages, smaller class sizes, more mental health support, among other issues.

Striking teachers and support staff have been picketing on the strike line and gathering for rallies across the city. Hundreds marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday, the striking educators and their supporters held a rally at the Capitol to demand lawmakers use the state's surplus of $9.3 billion to better fund schools throughout Minnesota. 

MPS negotiation updates can be read on this website. Read more about the educators union's demands here.