Friday, February 28, 2014


In St. Paul, Minnesota, the home of the nation's first ever teachers' strike in 1946, a recent threat of a job action appears to have been successful. 

There is an agreement providing for salary increases for teachers as well as increased staffing levels, lower class sizes and more. Admittedly, the district leaders look like they are more enlightened than average but the union resolving to take action could not have hurt.

This Minneapolis Star Tribune piece talks about the deal.  Here is a part I found quite informative for teachers everywhere:

Last week, immediately after a union rally outside district headquarters, (Superintendent Valeria) Silva and school board members heard parents speak on behalf of union proposals, among them, the class size reductions.

With a tentative deal done, Silva said that she, too, appreciated what parents and others had to say. “They came, they supported,” she said. “I was watching a community that loves teachers.”

See the highlights for yourself to judge whether or not they obtained a good contract.

Saint Paul Federation of Teachers  
Teacher Settlement Highlights 
After a 23-hour mediation session, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers settled a landmark contract that moves the St. Paul Public Schools closer to providing the schools our children deserve. Details of the proposal will be released in the coming days. Some highlights of the settlement as they relate to our seven community-developed negotiation priorities include: 
Smaller Classes 
The district agreed to calculate elementary class size limits within each school at each grade level. This is an improvement over previous limits in which averages were calculated for each district attendance zone. Lower limits were set for high poverty schools. Secondary limits will be calculated for each teacher rather than school-wide. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, all secondary classes (except bands, orchestras and choirs, which benefit from larger numbers of students) will be required to comply with the negotiated limits. This is an improvement from existing language which applied in secondary schools only to English, math, science and social studies classes. 
Education for the Whole Child 
The district committed to hiring at least 42.0 new FTEs including more licensed media specialists, elementary counselors, school social workers and nurses. These are staff in addition to any hiring the district will need to do in order to be in compliance with the negotiated class size limits. The district also committed to ensuring access to art, music and physical education for all students. 
Access to Preschool 
The district committed to spending at least $6 million per school year to maintain and expand St. Paul Public Schools’ high-quality Pre-K program for 4 year-olds. These dollars will help reduce waiting lists for the program. This commitment ensures that the district will assign referendum funds to the Pre-K program now that the state is picking up the cost of all-day kindergarten. 
Teaching, Not Testing 
The district committed to a 25% reduction in lost learning time due to testing and test preparation activities by the start of the 2015-16 school year. In addition, the district committed to review existing assessments for cultural relevance. SPFT and the district agreed to work together to lobby state and federal authorities to reduce mandates for unnecessary testing. 
Family Engagement 
The parties agreed to an expansion of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, to pilot Academic Parent-Teacher teams (an improved way to do parent-teacher conferences), and to allow for more flexibility in the design of parent-teacher conferences at individual schools. In addition, parents will serve on school committees that make decisions about class size exceptions at their school and will have seats on school committees designated to address school safety concerns. 
Culturally Relevant Education 
In addition to our agreement to review existing assessments for cultural relevance, the parties made a significant agreement related to Educational Assistants that will increase the number of teachers of color. Educational Assistants—educators who already know St. Paul and have a strong track record of meeting our students needswill have a career pathway created that will allow them to go back to school and get the coursework completed for a teaching license. This agreement will provide paid time off for EAs doing student teaching in the St. Paul Public Schools and stipends to help pay for education leading to teacher licensure. Educational Assistants will also be encouraged to participate on building equity teams. 
High Quality Professional Development for Teachers 
The parties agreed to increase support for new teachers coming into the district through the Peer Assistance and Review program. In addition, the parties agreed to increase the recognition stipend for teachers who are successful in receiving their National Board Certification (NBCT) and to provide time and financial assistance for those going through the certification process. The agreement preserves parity for school nurses, school psychologists, certified nurse practitioners, speech clinicians (CCC) and school social workers (LICSW) in addition to covering all of the different license areas currently part of the NBCT program. Seeking a National Board Certification is one of the most rigorous professional development paths a teacher can take during her/his career. 
The parties reached agreements on a variety of other issues: Improvements to Payroll, an additional month of paid health insurance for parents on the unpaid portion of their parental/maternity leave, paid time off for religious observance, teacher-initiated school redesign, improved procedures for addressing school safety and discipline concerns, reduced usage of teachers on carts, language on staffing at Bridge View School and in the Birth to Three program, an employee sick leave bank, an ELL Professional Issues Committee, and increased protection from stranding. 
Wages and Benefits  
Under the agreement, teachers will receive their normal steps and lanes and maintain the district’s current level of contributions toward health insurance. In addition, teachers will receive an average schedule improvement of 2.5% retroactive to July 1, 2013 and a further 2% effective on July 1, 2014. Experienced teachers (steps 15-19 and step 20) will receive an additional 1% increase on top of their schedule improvement in each of the two years of the contract. 

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