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St. Paul educators strike after failed negotiations

The language support is especially important in one of the nation's most diverse districts, where families speak 129 different tongues, the St. Paul Federation of Educators says. As for the mental health support staff, many students are experiencing trauma, the union says. In a 2019 survey, almost one-fifth of eighth-grade girls said they'd considered suicide in the last year, and 40% of fifth-graders agreed with the statement, "I worry a lot."Why are so many workers striking?Teachers are also asking for an expansion of "restorative practices to start eliminating the racial disparities in our schools," a union statement said. About one-third of St. Paul students are learning English, about 15% require special education and roughly seven in 10 are eligible for free or reduced lunches, according to district statistics. Calling the strike avoidable and unnecessary, St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard said his team did everything it could to appease teachers. That included offering wage increases totaling almost $10 million and filling some of the union's requested 300 new positions — but it wasn't enough, he said. "I want to make it clear: I believe our students need and deserve additional support," Gothard said. "However, we must prioritize our spending because we have limited resources. We need to place new investments where they are needed most."After reviewing the district's final offer, the union announced its first strike in 74 years at about 3 a.m. Tuesday and instructed educators to report to the picket line or contact their strike captain for other ways to participate. "What we're asking for is about 4% of the district's total budget, right? So this is not a budget issue," union president Nick Faber said at a news conference.

No 'secret pot of money'

Gothard this week requested arbitration as a means of keeping the schools open, but the union rejected the proposal, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported. The school board felt the union's proposals would endanger funding and resources for other unions and force cuts to other programs when the district's limited resources require school officials to be "intentional and responsible when increasing investments," board chairwoman Marny Xiong said in a statement. District employees are represented by 27 unions, according to the school system. "The reality is that there isn't a secret pot of money hiding somewhere," Xiong told the Star Tribune. Asked whether teachers were hoping Minnesota lawmakers might step into the fray, Faber told reporters he had no expectations to that effect. "This is a priorities issues, and sure, it would be great for the state to step up, but we've been waiting for the Legislature for a long time … and currently all we're getting is a constitutional amendment that's not going to get us where we need to go," he said. Legislators are considering an amendment that opponents say would tilt the playing field to the detriment of poorer students and open the door to "taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools," according to Education Minnesota, which does not support the amendment.

'It's emotional'

Cassie Heeringa has taught at Crossroads Elementary for five years. On Tuesday, a yellow sign out front declared, "No school today."She stepped away from a pack of protesters — many clad in "red for ed" and carrying picket signs that said, "A strike for the schools St. Paul children deserve" — to talk to CNN affiliate WCCO about the importance of her children feeling secure and being able to concentrate. Teachers spend too much time working to correct "difficult behaviors" when they should be focused on educating, she said. "It's emotional. Yesterday, putting the kids on the bus, I was crying on the inside because I love my students, and this is for them. We want them to feel safe. We want them to learn. They deserve more," she told the station. "All of us our giving up our incomes, our insurance. I have a child at home. I know a lot of these people have more than one child and we're giving up a lot, but we know that it's the right thing to do for our students and for each other."Faber echoed Heeringa's assertion that teachers take no joy in classes being canceled. "EducRead More – Source

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