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St. Paul educators frustrated with lack of progress in negotiations
St. Paul, Minnesota, March 5, 2020 — St. Paul educators continued to present solutions at the bargaining table Thursday, but district officials offered little in return as the two sides try to negotiate a contract before a March 10 strike.
Mediation is scheduled Friday through Monday in hopes of reaching a settlement.
“St. Paul educators are committed to working through the weekend to come to an agreement that is good for students and gives them the supports and resources they need to thrive. We’ve felt that urgency since talks began last May,” said Nick Faber, president of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators.
“Unfortunately, the district isn’t responding to our proposals. We proposed hiring more multilingual staff to help our families and students five months ago and still haven’t received a response,” he said.
One of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators’ top priorities is putting a mental health team in every school, which would include a counselor, social worker, nurse, psychologist and behavior intervention specialist. In an earlier bargaining session, SPFE proposed phasing the teams in over a three-year period, bringing the costs down to about $10 million a year from an estimated $30 million a year.
Saint Paul Public Schools negotiators responded Thursday with a change that could mean some schools in the district would actually see a reduction in staff supporting students’ mental health needs.
“Our students need more support, not less,” Nick Faber said. “Schools are underfunded, no question. But budgets reflect priorities. St. Paul educators believe we need fewer adults working for adults and more adults working directly with students.”
Other top priorities for SPFE include more multilingual staff to help students and families, additional educators working with students with special needs and appropriate assignments so educators can give students more one-on-one attention.
Negotiations began last May between SPFE and the district. The union offered 31 proposals and filed for mediation in November because the district never offered counters to those proposals.