Whose Side Are You On?

On Tuesday, December 19th, hundreds of SPFT members and parent allies packed the school board meeting to deliver over 2500 petitions to the school board, asking them to work with us to find additional sources of revenue to fund racially equitable public schools. Instead of reading these petitions that were signed by Saint Paul residents, the board members let security take them away. 

Below are the remarks SPFT Vice President Erica Schatzlein delivered during the open comment period, while we presented the petitions to the school board. 

In September, our SPFT teacher bargaining team passed a proposal across the table asking the district to partner with us to seek additional revenue for our schools. We acknowledge the challenges of state education funding, and asked to work together to achieve fully funded racially equitable schools. We were told no.

In October, our members came to public comment to speak about the unmet student needs they struggle with daily. They asked you to partner with us. Still, the answer was no. In November, our members came with the Twin Cities Labor Chorus, and they asked you, in song!, to partner with us. They asked: Which side are you on, board?  Are you on the side of Minnesota’s wealthy corporations, millionaires, and billionaires — who make money off of the school to prison pipeline, and avoid paying for public services? Or are you on the side of our 38,000 SPPS students and their families?

We’ve been having conversations with those families, and their neighbors — our St. Paul community members. Tonight, we’re here on behalf of them — over 2,500 of them — urging you again to partner with us to seek the additional funding we need to provide student mental health supports, adequate support for our English learners and students who receive special education services, smaller class sizes, and expanded Restorative Practices.

These “gifts” contain the petitions from our community, asking you to partner with us to invest in our students. We are asking you to imagine having a nurse, counselor, and social worker in every school to meet the needs of our students. Imagine lower class sizes that allow for stronger student and teacher relationships and stronger parent and teacher relationships. Imagine St. Paul public schools leading in demonstrating the power of restorative practices. Imagine schools that provide our students of color with the equity in education that they deserve. Imagine what we could do together for our kids.