Classrooms Empty in Minneapolis as Teachers Strike

The Minneapolis Teachers Union officially went on strike this Tuesday, plunging the district into an indefinite shutdown and suddenly sending parents scrambling for alternatives. 

The union is demanding the following:

  • A living wage for Education Support Professionals (ESPs)
  • Systemic changes to improve the recruitment and retention of educators of color
  • More mental health supports
  • Lowering class sizes
  • Competitive compensation for licensed staff 

The move marks the second major teacher walkout of 2022. At the beginning of the year, the Chicago Teachers Union became the first after voting to continue “remote learning” despite the school district’s plan to return for in-person learning. Though COVID-19 protocols were the focus of the strike, the union’s initial laundry list of demands included a public statement of support for affordable housing by the school district and a continued moratorium on new charter schools in the city. There is already talk of another strike in Chicago as the union is strongly opposing district plans to make masks optional among students. 

ESPs in Minneapolis currently make an average starting salary of $24,000. The union is seeking an almost 50% increase to $35,000, in addition to a 12% increase in first-year teacher salaries. The district superintendent, Ed Graff, says that the union’s proposal would result in the district exceeding its budget by $166,000,000 each year, making it completely untenable. For what it’s worth, the median salary in Minnesota is $61,442 among all professions, while the median for teachers in Minneapolis is $64,741. 

America last saw a rash of teacher strikes during the Red for Ed movement back in 2018 and 2019, where teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado walked out statewide. Just two years later, West Virginia passed the most expansive and inclusive education savings account (ESA) program into law – an effort spearheaded by ALEC National Board Member Senator Patricia Rucker. In Arizona, the legislature is currently debating a significant increase to the state’s voucher program. And in Oklahoma, Governor Stitt is backing a universal ESA measure proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Treat. 

The Minneapolis strike is especially concerning because of district demographics, where nearly 50% of students qualify for free-or-reduced-price lunches. This work stoppage means another disruption and expanded learning loss for students who were already disproportionately affected by the pandemic. It is disheartening to see these families’ educational options effectively reduced to zero during this teacher strike. It’s also another strong reason to support freedom through education choice.

In Depth: Education

An excellent education has long been recognized as key to the American Dream. Unfortunately, the current monopolistic and expensive K-12 education system is failing our students, leaving them unprepared for college, careers, or life. Similarly, our higher education system is leaving students with higher debt burdens and fewer career guarantees…

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