Teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota shut down schools with strike on Tuesday, leaving parents with about two hours notice that classes were canceled.
About 3,600 members of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers ditched students for the picket lines around 5 a.m. Tuesday, the day after union leaders rejected the district’s offer of arbitration to resolve the labor dispute.
MPR News reports:
Union representatives said the district had not come close enough to satisfying their demands for more funding of mental health services for students, as well as more multilingual interpreters and special education funding. The union said its plan would have stretched out increased hiring over three years to give the district budget flexibility.
Superintendent Joe Gothard has said the district does not have room in the budget to fill all the demands teachers have owing to lower state and federal funding and the loss of 2,000 students over the last four years.
Union officials contend they ordered members to skip school to help students.
“Educators want to be with their students. But they also want their students to enter schools that are supported and have the resources our kids need to thrive,” union president Nick Faber said. “St. Paul is filled with beautiful, brilliant students. And sometimes, just like all of us as adults, they need help. And right now our schools are lacking those supports.”
Currently, the average teacher salary in St. Paul tops $70,000, the district receives more than $18,000 per student, and fewer than 40 percent of students are proficient in English or math, according to Niche.com.
The Tuesday teachers strike is the first in the district since 1946, and it follows just a week after school and union officials began negotiations.
— SPFE Local 28 (@SPFE28) March 10, 2020
Teachers lined the streets in front of schools Tuesday morning with ready-made picket signs from the St. Paul Federation of Teachers Local 28, many dancing along the curb or shouting at passing motorists to honk in support.
— Lindsay Walker (@LindsayAWalker1) March 10, 2020
In many places in the city, students served their teachers donuts and cookies as they danced on their day off, some of highway overpasses, others packed in medians and intersections.
SPPS Focus Beyond teacher Dusty Thune brought his 1946 fire truck to the picket line at District HQ to carry strikers around town (and to the restroom). Fun fact: 1946 was the year of the last St. Paul teacher strike. @MPRnews pic.twitter.com/eFBeBdQHSY
— Evan Frost (@efrostee) March 10, 2020
Some even took their signs on tour, packed in a vintage firetruck that hauled educators to bathroom breaks.
Every bridge along the main freeway in St. Paul has striking teachers on it! Drivers showing so much love for educators on strike for more student resources! #SPFE #RedForEd #Strike @UTLAnow @SPFE28 pic.twitter.com/E14IL6SarY
— Jollene 🍞🌹 (@jollenelevid) March 10, 2020
More than 36,000 students, meanwhile, are left in a lurch during the strike, though St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter assured parents some schools, recreation centers and libraries will remain open to ensure students receive free breakfast, lunch and snack through the district’s food program.
Many striking St. Paul school employees also brought their children with them to protest for the union and posted pictures and video to social media of youngsters banging drums, bellowing through blow horns and carrying union-made signs.
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) March 10, 2020
AFT President Rhonda Weingarten and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García also made appearances on Monday as locals prepared to strike.