Minneapolis teachers strike: District makes 'final offer' for support workers

Teachers rallied again on Sunday as negotiations continue. (FOX 9)

Minneapolis students are entering week three of no school, as the district and its teachers continue to negotiate a contract.

The union got an offer Sunday that is closer than anything else they’ve been presented when it comes to wages for Education Support Professionals (ESPs). ESP’s work alongside teachers to support students in the classroom.

According to MPS, its latest offer included an increase in starting wages for 85 percent of current ESPs to $23 per hour or more. It also increased the lowest paid ESPs from $15.45 to $18 per hour.

In a statement, a representative for Minneapolis ESPs said: "While we appreciate MPS getting to where they are, we know they can get to $35,000 [in yearly salary]. It won’t take much more on their part to settle this strike and get our students and educators back to school."

The district said this most recent proposal reached beyond its financial means, and as a result would require $10 million in budget cuts.

There was still no agreement with union officials Sunday night, saying their members were "ready to hold the line until we get there."

District says they need help from the state

During a news conference last Sunday, Minneapolis Public School leaders admitted they were struggling to make offers that would meet the teachers' expectations, throwing the state under the bus in the process.

School leaders blamed the state for failing to keep up with inflation when it comes to state funding for schools statewide, leaving them to figure out how to meet budget shortfalls.

"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.

District urges teachers to return to work

The district also asked teachers this week to get back to the classroom as negotiations drag on.

"Our students need to be back in school," said Senior Accountability, Research and Equity Officer Eric Moore. "We can negotiate a contract with our kids back in school."

Monday will mark the 10th missed school day for Minneapolis students.