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Minneapolis teachers settlement: Details on tough issues still to come

Here are a few educated guesses about the new contract, likely to be worth about $240 million.

Stanley Alleynenspra.orgStan Alleyne

Yesterday, in a long-telegraphed punch, Minneapolis Public Schools and its teachers union announced a tentative contract agreement for 2011-2013.

The terms of the agreement have not yet been released; MPS spokesman Stan Alleyne said the district wants to give the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers a few days to make the proposed deal known to its members.

Expect a more nuanced, fleshed-out analysis in this space sometime next week when there are enough specifics known to enable a little rudimentary Kremlinology. In the meantime, it’s possible to make a few educated guesses.

Likely worth about $240 million, the contract is being depicted as the product of a collaborative negotiating process between both sides.

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Working at the behest of a school board fairly described as loath to continue its predecessors’ insistence at pushing for concessions needed to go forward with gap-closing reforms, MPS had precious little to offer teachers in the way of wages and benefits.

MFT leaders, for their part, likely ceded little. 

The one detail clear to date: The Twin Cities schools that have succeeded in making outsized strides in closing the socioeconomic achievement gap have school years that are 35 percent to 40 percent longer than MPS, be it via an extended day, extended year or both.

When the MPS-MFT talks were closed to the public several weeks ago at the union’s request, the district wanted teachers to agree to an additional two weeks of instructional time per year—with pay. Last week, MPS parents (including Your Humble Blogger) received their 2012-2013 school year calendars, which provide for an additional four days, three of them borrowed from Christmas break.

So what of the arguably more painful issues on the table, including an end to the forced placement of “excessed” teachers, many of them persistent underperformers, in schools that don’t want them? What of a layoff system that ensures top performers will not be laid off before more junior, slacker performers?

Good questions.

Teachers are expected to vote to reject or ratify the proposal in mid-April. Whatever their decision, because the new contract would have to reach back until the last one — which went without a new agreement — lapsed, district and union negotiators could be back at the table late this year.