Mediation
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Letter from Superintendent Graff

Letter from Superintendent Graff

Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

In order to reach resolution in a more timely manner for our school staff and school district, Minneapolis Public Schools has decided to request that contract negotiations with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) move into mediation. Mediation involves a neutral third party working privately with both MPS and MFT to more efficiently resolve issues and settle the contract.

Because last year’s contract expired on June 30, our teachers and other school staff have been working without benefit of an active contract. Minnesota law keeps former contracts in place until replaced, but our teaching staff deserves to know the terms under which they are working. We believe mediation can make that happen more quickly.

Another factor in our decision to request mediation is the district’s need to address a projected budget deficit of $33 million for the next school year. Decisions around employee salaries and benefits that are addressed in MFT’s contract are critical to these discussions over the next few months.

As you know, MPS recently announced an effort to secure staff and community input on how to address our deficit, including via a survey and focus groups through mid-November. These tools are part of a long-term effort to build a sustainable budget for MPS:

  1. During the 2017-2018 school year, we must all work together to reduce expenses. We have begun to explore limiting hiring for open positions. We are discussing the possibility of eliminating two days of school, which can save up to $1 million on salaries alone. Other measures will be shared in the coming weeks.
  2. Long-term budget decisions that will require implementation in future school years must ensure that revenues and expenses match. This is where larger systemic changes will be required, changes that require planning and lead-time. MPS can’t change things like transportation, bell times, school boundaries or school educational programming without giving staff and families significant lead-time for planning.
  3. We need to increase revenues in the years to come. We can work at the legislative level to advocate for legislative funding to eliminate $53 million in special education and $8 million in English language costs subsidized by MPS. We can also ask our taxpayers for additional support through another referendum. Results from either of these options are not guaranteed, and, if successful, will not be felt for at least two years.

I am sharing this budget information early and often because I made a pledge of transparency to both staff and community. The budget and contract negotiations are intricately linked. While I would prefer that negotiations continue publicly, I believe that quicker progress in contract settlement is now more important for our teachers and our district. We will share as much information as we are legally able to as negotiations continue.

You can read more about the proposals that have been offered by both MPS and MFT here. I welcome your ideas as we move through this journey together.

Superintendent Ed Graff