District Strike Messaging Draws Ire of Parents, Students, Educators

Minneapolis, MN – Messaging by the Minneapolis Public School district (MPS) during the teachers strike has drawn the ire of parents, students, and union members alike.

After students occupying the district’s headquarters said they were “tired” of MPS using the media to say negative things about the teachers, parents and union members are also voicing their displeasure over the district prematurely saying the strike was over. They’ve called the tactics “divisive,” “deceptive” and geared in an attempt “to draw a wedge between parents and the union.”

“I’m angry and sad, and questioning whether I’ll continue to keep my child in the MPS school system.”

Parent of students in the Minneapolis Public School district

A tentative agreement was reached late night on March 24 between the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT59) and the district after 13 days of striking. The next morning, the district sent parents an email, a text message and a phone call telling the parents that “The strike has ended” and students could go “back to school on Monday.”

Although there was a new tentative contract agreement, the strike isn’t over until a ‘yes’ vote from MFT membership. The tentative agreements have been made public by MFT 59, view them here.

Email and text message sent to parents of students in the Minneapolis Public School district on March 25, 2022

Text messages sent to parents simply stated: “MPS welcomes students back to schools on Monday, March 28, after a tentative agreement was reached with MFT. The strike has ended. bit.ly/MPS_MFT

The first paragraph in the email sent from the district and signed by MPS Superintendent Ed Graff, states: “MPS is extremely pleased to welcome students back to school on Monday, March 28, pending an MFT membership vote. MPS and MFT reached a tentative contract agreement … ending the strike.”

The district used bold text on the words “welcome students back to school on Monday, March 28.” Although “pending” a “vote” was also written, parents tell Unicorn Riot it felt “manipulative.”

Union members said they were ‘troubled’ by the messages which they felt equated to “psychological warfare,” putting extra pressure on the union for a yes vote.

Dan Magnuson, an MFT union member and special education teacher in the district for the last two decades, spoke to Unicorn Riot outside the Minneapolis Public School Davis Center after the tentative contract agreement on Friday. Magnuson expressed “careful optimism” over the contract and upcoming member vote but spoke against the framing of the messages sent by Graff and the district, saying they were a “sneaky, political tactic, that’s kinda gross.”

Magnuson said union members now have to decide that if they vote with their “conscious to vote no, now we have to vote under the pressure of disappointing the families and taking away that promise that was already given to them.”

The next morning, on Saturday, March 26, MPS sent out new messages changing the date that students could return. Monday is now slated to be a transition day with “staff returning to work” and Tuesday, March 29, is the actual date “that students will return to school.” Again, “pending the MFT vote on the contract” is written after the emboldened dates of return.

Updated email and text message sent to parents of students in the Minneapolis Public School district on March 26, 2022

Numerous parents have voiced displeasure over the district’s messaging throughout the strike and especially with the language saying the strike had ended.

One parent told Unicorn Riot they felt it was “ridiculous” for the district to announce that school was starting without a union membership vote. They said the strike has “amplified the dysfunction of the district leadership and the manipulative games they played throughout trying to pit parents against the teachers.”

This manipulation along with “misleading information” and seemingly not having the best interests for their children has led a parent we spoke with to question whether they keep their children enrolled in the district.

“The lack of transparency in the messaging with misleading information regarding the proposals and mediation. The lack of progress felt stalled by individual interest vs what’s best our children. Example being the revelation that Eric Moore texts to union president Greta Callahan about wanting to become the next superintendent, in midst of mediation. Plus us parents have still yet to see the agreed upon proposal and for the district to announce school will start on Monday without the union membership vote is ridiculous. I’m angry and sad, and questioning whether I’ll continue to keep my child in the MPS school system.”

Parent of students in the Minneapolis Public School district

As mentioned earlier, two days before the district messaging was sent out saying the strike ended, MPS students occupying the Davis Center (MPS administration building) called out district messaging to the media that was negative of teachers.

Controversy over messaging is one of the many issues that the district continues to face aside from the striking teachers. With Minneapolis schools funded in part based on property taxes and a large majority of white teachers led by white administrators, racial disparities and a large resource/achievement gap continue to be one of the worst in the nation.

Unicorn Riot coverage of the Minneapolis Teacher Strike 2022:

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