St. Paul Public Schools and the union representing its teachers have reached tentative agreements on a few elements of a new contract, but as mediation continues, union members are frustrated with the pace of talks.
They wonder: “What do they have to do to get the district to move?” Nick Faber, president of the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE), said Monday.
Pressure is expected to build Tuesday when union members and supporters rally outside district headquarters for contract proposals that Superintendent Joe Gothard says — as currently written — could be too expensive for the state’s second-largest district.
The event is at 4:30 p.m. in advance of the school board’s monthly meeting and as board members meet in closed session to discuss negotiations involving not only SPFE, but also school principals and the district’s teaching assistants — the latter of whom also plan to rally Tuesday.
For the current bargaining round, the school board has repeated its strategy of setting and publicizing the amount of money it has earmarked for contracts. For SPFE and its approximately 3,800 teachers, educational assistants and school and community service professionals, the total amount of new funding available works out to $9.6 million over two years, officials say. Two years ago, when the federation took the school district to the brink of a strike, the amount available totaled about $4.2 million.
In December, the board approved a new contract for nutrition services employees calling for pay increases of 1.5% in the first year and 2% in the second.
Gothard has participated in negotiations with teachers, and reported to district employees Friday that the two sides engaged in an all-day session with a mediator on Thursday, and the tone was “respectful.” The next mediation session is set for Jan. 29, he added.
He did not offer details on the tentative agreements reached but put the total number of “open proposals” between the two sides at more than 50.
Faber said Monday that the union still was waiting for a written response to its top priority: the establishment of mental health teams for every building. He added that the tentative agreements were “fine, but we were hoping to be further along than this.”
Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109