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Tale Of 2 Districts: Why St. Paul Educators Struck A Deal, And Their Mpls. Counterparts Didn't

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Why were St. Paul educators able to reach a deal, and Minneapolis educators were not?

Teachers in both districts wanted some of the same things: caps on class sizes, more mental health resources, a living wage for teachers' assistants and bonus pay.

A large difference is that St. Paul educators already had some of those things in place, while Minneapolis did not.

Let's start with pay, even though that was not one of the top bargaining issues. On average, St. Paul teachers make $85,000. Teachers in Minneapolis make $71,000, and they are aware of the disparity.

"It makes me feel disrespected and unappreciated," said teacher Lindsey Lacoste during a rally in front of MPS headquarters.

St. Paul already has class size caps, but Minneapolis does not. Both school districts have lost thousands of students.

Since 2015, St. Paul Public Schools' enrollment is down 11%. But even with fewer students, the district now has 56% more mental health support staffers.

Teachers Strike Generic
(credit: CBS)

"I feel very good about waking up today, albeit a little bit tired, but really committed to us turning the page and moving forward on the close of the school year," said SPPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard on Tuesday.

Megan Boldt, a spokesperson for the St. Paul Federation of Educators, says both teachers and education assistants will get raises under the new agreement, with bigger raises going to the assistants. And everyone will get a significant one-time bonus.

Boldt wouldn't give dollar figures on the raises, and she also wouldn't reveal the amount of the bonuses. The union wants to present the details in meetings to its members throughout the week. Boldt says under the agreement, the union got even better language on class size caps and mental health support.

On the picket line, Minneapolis teachers are glad for their colleagues in St. Paul, but the differences hurt.

"We're out here doing the same work, and we love our kids as much as they do," Lacoste said.

SPFE members will vote on the agreement in two weeks. Superintendent Gothard says he knows they need to pay their education support professionals (ESPs) more, but it needs to find a financially sustainable way to do it.

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