St. Paul educators reach tentative contract deal, call off strike

St. Paul educators rally on day of strike.
St. Paul educators rally at Global Arts Plus-Upper Campus on the first day of their strike, Tuesday, March 10. The union, St. Paul Federation of Educators says the district fell short of meeting demands.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Updated: 6:05 a.m.

The St. Paul school district and its teachers union have reached a tentative settlement and school could resume for 36,000 students on Monday.

The union and the district announced they’d reached the deal at about 3 a.m. this morning. The district is the state’s second-largest, with 6,700 staff members and 63 schools.

“We are glad to reach an agreement with our educators,” said Dr. Joe Gothard, Superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools. “Through hours of compromise and a laser focus on placing students above all else, we have a new two-year agreement that targets resources to areas of greatest need.”

Gothard did not offer any details about negotiations or a deal.

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St. Paul Federation of Educators president Nick Faber, however, made reference to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Only an unprecedented pandemic and concern over the health and safety of our students and staff stopped St. Paul educators from fighting harder and longer for more resources for our children,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “District leaders decided to play politics with a national health crisis by digging in at the bargaining table. They decided to put their own pride before the health and wellness of St. Paul students and educators.”

The union cited seven examples of what it said were improvements in the contract, including:

  • More social workers, nurses, intervention specialists, psychologists and multilingual staff.

  • Expanding restorative practices to build positive school climates and help end the school-to-prison pipeline.

  • More manageable workloads so we can give our students with special needs more one-on-one attention.

  • Wage increases.

  • Building-based substitute teachers for schools that chronically have a difficult time finding substitutes.

  • Prep time for educational assistants who are interpreters

  • An agreement to call for a moratorium on new charter schools.

The union told members to report to work this afternoon, although schools will remain closed.

The district said it planned to reopen schools on Monday, and that the KidSpace program it started to accommodate younger children during the strike would operate Friday.

The deal comes in the shadow of unprecedented doubt about the continuity of public education in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Maryland and Ohio announced they were closing schools statewide just hours before the St. Paul deal, and state health officials said they were recommending the first precautionary steps in Minnesota schools — including social distancing, limiting student gatherings and finding alternatives to classroom instruction for kids with underlying health conditions. They have stopped short of cancelling classes.

Higher education, however, has moved swiftly, canceling classes across Minnesota and moving teaching online in the face of the outbreak, after the University of Minnesota announced it was closing classrooms on Wednesday.