The St. Paul School District and its teachers began contract talks this spring, and for the first time, according to union Vice President Denise Rodriguez, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers rolled out its proposals in full, rather than in piecemeal fashion.
It was the breadth of the proposals, in fact, that was the main drawing point of the union’s supporting document, “The Schools St. Paul Children Deserve.” Rodriguez was proud of that effort, so much so that when a reporter tried to ask a question recently about the “constellation” of proposals beyond money, she cut him off to say: “Does that surprise you that we’re not focused on wages and benefits?”
But that week also brought word that the district and union had met to discuss Q Comp, the state’s alternative pay program, leaving the resulting story to be, yes, chiefly about money, with a headline that read: “St. Paul teachers seeking $23.7 million over two years.”
So, what about that federation document?
It is 34 pages, cover to cover, with photos, pie charts and the like, a product of meetings involving two groups of parents, educators and community members. In addition to proposing that the district move away from mandated standardized testing and provide preschool to all 4-year-olds — ideas reported here earlier — the document also pushes for the expansion of teacher home visits, lower class sizes and the hiring of more licensed nurses, counselors, social workers and media specialists. According to the union, St. Paul had a students-to-librarian ratio of 3,369 to 1 in the 2011-12 school year.
The district has said that many of the proposals are outside the scope of the contract but that it would discuss them in another forum.
Said Rodriguez, “That’s unacceptable to us.”
The booklet makes no mention of teacher compensation. That’s in another document.
Just how wide-ranging the talks get should be more clear in about a month or so. Negotiations are expected to resume then, and they’re open to the public.