More than 37,000 public school students in Minnesota stayed home for the third day in a row as their teachers continued to strike.
St. Paul Public Schools have been closed since Tuesday as the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) takes to the picket lines for more mental health support, a larger multilingual staff, more educators to work with students with special needs, and an expansion of practices that would “break down racial disparities.”
The SPFE said in a statement that more than 3,000 of its members protested on Wednesday, and that they’ve been waiting since Monday night for the school district to respond to its budget proposal, which represents 3.4 percent of the school district’s total budget over the next two years.
The SPFE argued that the district’s last proposal “dramatically slashed the number of support staff educators proposed to help meet students’ needs.”
Superintendent Joe Gothard estimates the union’s demands, which also include wage increases, at more than $50 million, according to The Star-Tribune.
“We have limited resources and we need to place new investments where they are needed most,” district spokesman Kevin Burns said, the outlet reported.
The union said it began negotiations last May and has since offered 31 different proposals, even filing for mediation in November because “the district never offered counters” to many of those proposals.
The Star-Tribune reported that the union and the district met Thursday morning for a talk Burns said the district was “enthusiastically looking forward to.”
Meanwhile, the district reportedly sent notices to the thousands of employees striking, warning them they could be laid off if they continue, though Burns called the notices a “contract requirement.”
“We are ready to start negotiating to get a contract that won’t leave any student or educator behind,” SPFE president Nick Faber said in a statement. “St. Paul educators miss their students and want to get back to school.”
While schools were closed Thursday, the district opened seven Kid Space sites for students grades K-5 offering breakfast, lunch and activities with adult supervision from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.