Home Minnesota Educator President’s message: Better contracts are worth the fight — We are worth more!

Better contracts are worth the fight — We are worth more!

Share on
Education Minnesota President, Denise Specht

Educators across Minnesota are coming together to demand better contracts for the learning conditions of their students and working conditions for themselves.

I wish I could report negotiations were easier after the historic investments in public education by the 2023 Legislature. With a few exceptions—including Aitkin, Grand Meadow, Mounds View, Randolph and Walker—the offers at the table have been underwhelming and occasionally insulting.

As I write this, less than one-third of our teacher locals have settled their contracts. That’s below the historical average. The average salary increases right now are 4.55% in 2023-24 and 3.3% in 2024-25. That’s better than past years. However, it lags inflation. In many places, salary increases of that size won’t even pay for spiraling health insurance costs.

Educators are growing extremely frustrated by low-ball offers, the pace of settlements and tone of talks. The public is noticing, with recent high-profile actions in Anoka Hennepin, Eastern Carver County, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Prior Lake-Savage, Rochester, and by the Minnesota State College Faculty and University Education Association.

The precise reasons for the mismatch between expectations and offers are unique to each local, but there are some common themes emerging. Sometimes it’s as simple as old habits are hard to break.

Bosses have come to the table for years with a narrative about scarcity and underfunding. While that’s largely true, the narrative has also been an effective tactic for keeping down compensation. But this year the money is coming and, with inflation now built into the K-12 funding formula, there’s more security about the future.

In other cases, it looks like superintendents are overwhelmed, or acting overwhelmed, by implementing expansions to the civic safety net, including paid family leave and unemployment insurance for education support professionals. Instead of drawing up reasonable plans, they’re clutching the purse strings tighter. Sometimes this has been done under cover of dubious, doomsday financial projections with improbable assumptions about reversing enrollment trends, exploding expenses and unrealistic staffing levels.

It’s not surprising educators are getting louder. The Legislature decided to tackle the school staffing crisis through appropriations to the general funds of school districts and college systems instead of following our union’s recommendation of earmarking money directly for educator compensation. As we predicted, this decision created the conditions for conflict. To get paid what we’re worth, we said, educators would need to use all of our collective action tools—just as has been done by workers at airlines, automakers and movie studios.

At the state level, we’re assisting locals on the ground and through statewide communications. Many Minnesotans have already seen the first two inspirational digital ads in which educators and parents make the case that “Educators are worth more!” The ads are available on our new microsite SupportMNEducators.org and Education Minnesota’s YouTube channel.

We are also using our platform to argue that improving educator compensation is one of the best ways to fix the staffing crisis, which our polling has shown is a top priority for Minnesotans. It can’t be said enough: Fully staffing our worksites with professional educators and mental health teams will make classrooms and campuses safer, improve absenteeism, reduce burnout, attract new educators and improve student outcomes.

The winter bargaining sessions could be difficult and escalating tactics are inevitable at many worksites, but I know we can succeed—but only if we support each other, work in union, and use our collective voice to say from one end of the state to the other: We are worth more!

Denise Specht
Twitter: @DeniseSpecht

Similar Posts