Today we met with the District for our fourth mediation session.
Despite claims from the Superintendent that we’re within reach of a settlement – the District is still not discussing our student-centered proposals and remains inflexible with their financial parameters.
When we first started negotiations almost a year ago, before they had seen any of our proposals, the District set an arbitrary dollar amount for negotiations which they refuse to alter. The District is presenting us with the same false choice that it does during every contract negotiation: that we can only get the student-centered proposals we’ve put forward to strengthen our schools if we’re willing to pay for it at the expense of educator salaries and health care costs.
The truth is that the District has the ability to do both if it decides that our students and our educators are a priority in Saint Paul Public Schools. SPPS has an annual operating budget of $750 million and just over a year ago, Saint Paul voters passed a referendum putting $18.6 million of additional revenue per year into our school district.
When the District crafted its strategic plan, it was able to find millions of dollars to fund the initiatives that administrators working in their offices in 360 decided were important. Well, that plan was written without adequate input from educators and now it’s time for a course correction. As educators, we work with our students every single day, and we know what’s needed in our classrooms and in our schools in order for students to thrive.
That’s what we’re fighting for – and it shouldn’t come at our expense just because the District didn’t care to ask for our expertise when they were writing the strategic plan. They’d prefer that we take the contract that they offered at the start of our negotiations.
If you believe our students deserve better than what the district if currently offering, and if you think that our profession is a craft that requires dedication and skill and is deserving of respect talk to your Contract Action Team member or Steward about the steps you can take to make your voice heard.
After a full day of mediation, we reached two tentative agreements. One on enrollment preferences for EAs and SCSPs who send their students to SPPS, and another on union building access.
Our next mediation session is scheduled for February 19.
Charles T. Letendre
Laurel Kuhner Berker