Negotiations start next week for the 2013-2015 labor contract governing working conditions for the Minneapolis district’s more than 3,000 teachers for the next two school years.

Those working conditions are increasingly a target of the critics of public education who style themselves educational reformers.  That in turn has prompted a backlash among some teachers who argue that reformers are carrying out a corporate agenda to take over schools.

Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson laid out her position in a mid-May speech in which she called for more flexibility in the union contract and in district rules for some schools that would exchange more autonomy for accountability for results.Johnson said she wants more teaching time, more freedom in hiring, and new career paths for teachers to assume leadership.

Meanwhile a union response called for smaller classes, more services to meet the needs of students, less testing, more teaching planning time, and more culturally relevant lessons.  The union is planning a series of gatherings in homes with parents to discuss its agenda.

Rick Kreyer, the district’s human resources chief, will lead the district’s negotiating team, while Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, will lead the union side.

The first two sessions are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at the union headquarters, 67 8th Av. NE, and a third is scheduled for June 17. All three sessions are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Negotiating sessions are open to the public until they enter state mediation.

The current contract expires on June 30, although an ever-green clause keeps its conditions in place while a new contract is discussed.  Negotiations are starting three months earlier than the September start that marked the 2011-2013 negotiations.  Those discussions didn’t produce a tentative agreement until the following March.

That contract raised contract costs by 6.4 percent over the previous pact.  That was mainly due to the district paying to lengthen the teaching year by four days and the non-teaching time the teacher is required to spend in school by an average of 15 minutes daily. That added $3,090 to a typical teacher paycheck next year, before increases they got for added experience and education.

Teachers voted 83 percent for that deal, an even higher proportion than the 6-2 vote by the school board for the pact.  Two new board members have taken office since then.