The teachers chapter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers on Tuesday requested state mediation in its contract negotiations with Minneapolis Public Schools.

The Minneapolis teachers union has met with district leaders in several livestreamed negotiation sessions that the district called "extremely productive" for the next contract. The current contract expired in June.

"Both sides are meeting with the best intentions of reaching an agreement that values the work of Minneapolis teachers and will help us provide a high-quality, culturally relevant education to our students," wrote Greta Callahan, president of the union's teacher chapter, in a news release.

In a statement Tuesday, the district said it was "both surprised and saddened" by the union's decision to move to mediation. The school board did agree to consider the request to jointly file.

"Regardless of MFT's rationale for filing, doing so without giving the board an opportunity to process gives the impression to our community that we are not making progress," read the statement.

Callahan said the union wants to reach a tentative agreement with the district before the new superintendent, Lisa Sayles-Adams, begins in her role on Feb. 5.

"We want to start our work together with a clean slate," Callahan wrote.

Union leadership said the district has not presented a financial proposal or a response to the union's opening proposal. That proposal included an 8.5% salary increase for teachers in the contract's first year and a 7.5% increase in the second year — raises that Callahan said would help retain teachers.

"It is our hope that we can continue bargaining in the manner which we have, so that we can reach agreement as quickly and as transparently as possible," read the district statement.

The negotiations come two years after a weekslong teacher strike in 2022 and amid what district leaders are calling a looming fiscal crisis. At a board meeting this month, the budget director predicted a $121 million hole in the general fund when pandemic relief funds sunset in fall 2024.

Teachers contracts across the state are taking longer than usual to settle this year. Brionna Harder, the Minneapolis teachers union's lead negotiator, said that's another reason to file for mediation now in case the state's mediators are overwhelmed with requests in the coming months.

Filing now, she wrote in a statement, "ensures we have every tool available if we don't have an agreement in the next few weeks."

Earlier this month, St. Paul Public Schools and the union representing its teachers and other educators agreed to seek a state mediator's help in negotiating a new contract. In March 2022, the two sides narrowly averted a strike in St. Paul — two years after a walkout that was cut short by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state's largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin, is also in mediation with its teachers union.