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St. Paul educators waiting for answers on multilingual supports, restorative practices
St. Paul, Minnesota, March 6, 2020 — Another round of negotiations Friday between St. Paul educators and school district leaders provided few or no answers to two critical proposals for our students and families — multilingual supports and restorative practices.
Families in St. Paul Public Schools speak 129 different languages, but there are not enough interpreters in schools to support them. One of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators’ top priorities is hiring more multilingual staff. The few school staff who speak different languages, mostly educational assistants and school and community support professionals, are being pulled away from their regular duties of working one-on-one with their students.
“These educators are the bedrock of our schools. Many are women of color, immigrants themselves, and are pillars in our community,” said SPFE President Nick Faber. “It is insulting they are still among the lowest paid employees in our schools and district leaders continue to ignore them when they ask for more support.”
Other top priorities for SPFE include expanding the use of restorative practices, putting a mental health team in every school, additional educators working with students with special needs and appropriate assignments so educators can give students more one-on-one attention.
Restorative practices are one way to build community and a positive school climate without pushing students of color out of school. SPFE proposed training in restorative practices for all district-level administrators and expanding its use to more schools. The district, in turn, responded with a weakened commitment.
“We need more than vague promises from the district if we want to end the school-to-prison pipeline,” Faber said.
Mediation is scheduled through Monday in hopes of reaching a settlement before a March 10 strike date.
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. Friday marked a minor milestone in the lengthy bargaining process: After the latest mediation session, half of the two sides’ proposals have been resolved—either by tentative agreements or because they were dropped.