▶ Watch Video: Minneapolis teachers strike after contract talks fail

On Tuesday morning, about 3,500 Minneapolis educators and support staff began a strike, calling for better pay and smaller class sizes, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said. In response, the city’s public schools canceled all classes and extracurricular activities for some 29,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade, and will continue to do so until the strike is over. 

The union, joined by the Teachers Education Support Professionals, announced the strike Monday after the union and the school district failed to reach an agreement on its demands, which included increased pay for education support professionals and teachers, increased mental health support for students and smaller class sizes. It also wants more staff of color.

“We are on strike for safe and stable schools,” president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Greta Callahan said at a press conference Tuesday. “We’re on strike for systemic change. We’re on strike for our students, the future of our city and the future of Minneapolis Public Schools.”

Despite the strike, Minneapolis Public Schools said it will provide students with a breakfast and lunch every day. Families can learn more information about when and where to pick up the meals from their school. It will also have school-based clinics and online learning enrichment activities available to students. However, MPS said it will not be able to supervise its younger students during the strike, and told parents to arrange for child care for their students. 

MPS called the strike “disappointing,” and vowed to limit the length and impact of it. 

“The anguish and uncertainty and sadness is beyond words,” MPS Superintendent Ed Graff said at a press conference Tuesday. “What we’ve been through for the last two years with this pandemic, the social unrest, the racial reckoning that we have here in Minneapolis and now we have our students again in this space where they’re not in school with their teachers who they care about very much learning is gut-wrenching.”

He said MPS has “shared values” with the teachers union, admitting that the city’s educators deserve to be paid more. Despite COVID-19 relief money the district received, MPS said on its website it has a $97.2 million funding gap, which, along with enrollment declines, has affected its ability to increase staff salaries.

“It’s something that we know we need to do better on,” Graff said regarding salary increases. “Unfortunately, the reality is that we’re resource limited. The finances that we have are not enough to provide the support that we need to provide.”

National unions like the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have voiced support for the local federation’s demands. 

“How do you attract Black and brown teachers if you don’t pay a living wage?” president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten said Tuesday alongside Minneapolis educators. “These are the issues here.”

The last time Minneapolis teachers went on strike was more than 50 years ago, according to CBS Minnesota. The current strike will continue until an agreement is reached.