Saint Paul Public Schools Holds Firm on Fiscal Responsibility Prompting Teachers Strike
Saint Paul, MN (Tuesday, March 10) - Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) was unable to reach an agreement on a new two-year contract with the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE), despite a mediation session that lasted until approximately 3 a.m.
“I can assure students, families, staff members and our community that the Board of Education, my team and I did absolutely everything we could to avoid a strike by teachers,” says Dr. Joe Gothard, Superintendent of SPPS.
Prior to these negotiations, which began in May of last year, the Saint Paul Board of Education established financial parameters for contract talks with all SPPS unions. Those parameters called for wage increases of 1.5 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second year of any new two-year contract.
That totaled $9.6 million for a new contract with SPFE. The union offered 31 proposals totaling more than $50 million, including more than $12 million in wage increases and $27 million to fund 300 new SPFE members to enhance student well-being and social-emotional support. To avoid a strike, the district offered a commitment to fund a significant number of positions identified in SPFE proposals. SPFE countered that it simply was not enough.
“How can we hold this Superintendent, this leadership team and all our staff members accountable when these proposals would have taken away the resources to do the job?,” says Marny Xiong, Chair of the Saint Paul Board of Education. “We all agree our students need additional support, but we must be intentional and responsible when increasing investments in our district. The SPFE proposals would have forced cuts to programs and would have been unfair to other SPPS collective bargaining units.”
A teacher’s strike now means approximately 36,000 students will not be in school starting immediately. SPPS has established Kid Space locations to provide safe, supervised activities and meals for students ages K through 5th grade at no cost. Kid Space will begin on Thursday, March 12. More information and registration is available at www.spps.org/kidspace.
In addition, SPPS will offer meal sites, serving breakfast and lunch to anyone ages 18 years and younger, again at no cost. These sites will serve meals at no cost beginning immediately. More information about those locations and hours can be found at www.spps.org.
Non-striking SPPS employees will be used to staff both Kid Space and meal site locations.
“Our focus remains on reaching an agreement that is fair to SPFE members, equitable to other SPPS unions and responsible to the taxpayers of Saint Paul,” says Superintendent Gothard. “More than ever, our students and families will hold us accountable to nothing less.”
Dr. Gothard says this strike was avoidable and unnecessary.
“I want to make it clear: I believe our students need and deserve additional support. That has never been in question,” says Dr. Gothard. “However, we must prioritize our spending because we have limited resources. We need to place new investments where they are needed most. This is what SPPS proposed as a responsible way to increase student support and remain accountable.”
For more information, click on www.spps.org/negotiations.