Education Action in MPS
Last Tuesday, at the October Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) board meeting more than 200 activists showed up to show support for Education Support Professionals (ESPs) with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and demand better wages in their current contract negotiations with the district. About a dozen Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America joined their voices to the cause to show solidarity with the workers.
The evening started with a picket inside MPS headquarters, with banners and music on the building’s front steps. The rally then moved inside where a teacher, two ESPs, and a parent spoke to their personal experiences with ESPs in the district. Following that, we marched chanting into the boardroom as public comment was opened up.
Ten ESPs spoke out about their situations, and we ended up extending public comment for an hour longer than usual to ensure ESP voices were heard. One Special Education Assistant (SEA) her frustration with her school where three assistants oversee 40 special needs kids, and 2 of those kids required all-day 1-on-1 time with an assistant, leaving the other 38 with almost no support. Many ESPs shared their need for second jobs to afford food and rent, with some taking home leftovers from school cafeterias to feed themselves. One ESP stated that this would be his last day working for the district after 17 years, often serving the most vulnerable kids with the highest needs. tHe could no longer withstand the disrespect and mistreatment he is subjected to, it has was lead to physical and mental health problems that he can not suffer any longer. One special education teacher spoke to her frustration with her high school which has been fully staffed with ESPs just one month in the last five years because they can not attract hires with pay so low, and how the students with Cognitive-Development Disabilities are left behind in the process.
These ESPs and activists came with 4 broad demands: 1) Eliminate step freezes. The district is asking that all ESPs forgo their annual payscale increase, which amounts to about 4% wage cut for most ESPs. 2) Pay Parent Liaisons the same hourly rate that Family Liaisons get. The Parent Liaison position was recently created by the district and involves almost identical job tasks, yet Parent Liaisons make $2/hour less than Family Liaisons. 3) Take break concessions off the table. Some after school child care workers in the district are being asked to give up their paid breaks if they want raises. 4) Increase the across-the-board 1% pay increase to at least stay current with inflation, which is currently marked at 2.7%. To take just one example, Special Education Assistants had a starting pay of $14.80/hr in 2001 and have a starting pay of $17.15 today, which is a 16% “increase”. Inflation has gone up 42% since 2001, meaning that SEAs have taken an 18% pay cut over the last 17 years.
As the neoliberal project of cutting budgets for public services continues to cut flesh from the cornerstones of society, the workers and students in our education system are among the first to be hit and are among the most deeply affected. The only way to combat this is to organize! Through collective action with the affected communities power can be built to push back against politicians and capitalists. Schools represent a particular flash point that we would be wise to organize in. ESPs do a major portion of the work that keeps school running, we need to support their political activity and that of all education workers.
‘Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.’
— Oscar Wilde
TCDSA 2018 Election Guide:
There’s often nothing more helpful than a personal recommendation for a particular candidate or referendum vote, especially when it comes from someone who shares your politics. A crowdsourced election guide will be released prior to and published in the next newsletter–watch this space and Slack for more information!
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For Further Review
With so many great podcasts, articles, books and videos coming out, it’s easy to miss something great. Here’s a few things we’ve found and loved recently:
In an effort to find reprieve from his own depression, Johann Hari goes in search for the causes and solutions. He documents his journey well and shares his insights to finding solace in what has personally been a salient book in helping me deal with the capitalist world we live in today. With all of the hard news coming this last month, it is more relevant than ever for keeping perspective. Lucas
The Kavanaugh drag has taken its toll on all of us. Heidi wraps up the folly of the appointment and focuses us back on what really matters, leftist political action and a bold legislative agenda. To hear Heidi discuss this article find her on Dead Pundits.
Real-estate interests have long wielded an outsized influence over national housing policy—to the detriment of African Americans.
Douglas Lain of Zero Books talks with Peter Hudis, a Professor of Humanities and author of several Marxist books about the “who” is the subject of a socialist revolution.
Theory Video: Mark Fisher on what is happening to our culture as capitalism reaches its end stages.