“According to Minnesota’s Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, Minneapolis teachers make an average of $71,535 per year. That’s almost $14,000 less than St. Paul teachers make on average,” Elizabeth Shockman reported at Minnesota Public Radio. “The union has said that Minneapolis education support professionals make a starting salary of only $24,000 per year — a rate they want the district to bump up to $35,000 per year.”
Those wages leave half of ESPs working second and third jobs. Most ESPs in the district are people of color, while most teachers are white.
Minneapolis has faced dropping enrollment in the past few years, losing students to charter and private schools—something that could well be related to the district’s extremely large class sizes. A striking teacher described 35-student first-grade classes in a recent interview, and the district has been reluctant to fix that in negotiations. As teachers always remind us, their working conditions are their students’ learning conditions, and large class sizes are the perfect example of that.
And right next door in St. Paul, a strike was averted as the district and teachers came to a last-minute agreement. “If St. Paul can add mental health workers, cap class size, and pay their ESPs $37,000, Minneapolis can figure out how to do that too,” Shaun Laden, president of the MFT ESP chapter, was quoted in Labor Notes. Having a closely neighboring city with higher wages and stronger contracts must also be a significant teacher retention issue for Minneapolis
According to Shockman’s reporting, Thursday’s progress left wages as a major sticking point, even though teachers have reduced their ask to 3% raises for each of two years—against a backdrop of inflation that is more than 3%.