Minneapolis Public Schools under fire for favoring Black teachers

by Tanesha Peeples
Minneapolis Public Schools under fire for favoring Black teachers
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As students are preparing to return to school all across the nation, teachers in Minneapolis Public Schools are in a black versus white battle for their jobs.

In a collective bargaining agreement made between the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Minneapolis School Board, contractual terms insinuate that if layoffs were to occur, white teachers would be let go from their jobs before Black teachers, regardless of seniority. 

While Minneapolis has one of the more diverse school districts in the state, the student demographics do not match the educator demographics. Currently, children of color makeup over 60 percent of the Minneapolis Public Schools student body while the teaching force stands at 18 percent people of color. So the decision was derived in an attempt to diversify the district’s teaching workforce.

Minneapolis Public Schools under fire

CBS Minnesota reported: 

The provision is part of the agreement reached between the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Minneapolis Public Schools in late March, following a three-week strike in which educators demanded higher pay, smaller class sizes and more mental health support for their students. About 76% of the union voted in favor of the new contract, ending the standoff.

The new language, effective next spring, adds an exception to a seniority-based system for staff reductions and layoffs for “teachers who are members of populations underrepresented among licensed teachers in the [d]istrict.”

Other exemptions already existed, like for teachers trained in immersion, Montessori, and certain literacy programs.

In addition to the provisions made around teacher of color recruitment and retention, the district included a clause for professional development around mitigating racial bias. 

Debate over contract for teachers

According to Black Enterprise,

“The agreement between MPS and the teachers union also includes other anti-race and anti-bias provisions. One of which will establish an ‘Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist Staff Development and Advisor Council’ that will ‘focus on reducing inequitable practices and behaviors in our learning places and spaces as well as supporting educators, specifically educators of color, in navigating and disrupting our district as a predominantly white institution.’”

The Minneapolis Public Schools contract is sparking debate in the education, media and political spaces.

American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, appears to support the new contract in a tweet where she says, “This. ‘The same people who want to take down teachers unions and blame seniority are now defending it for white people. This is all made up by the right wing now.’”

In a challenge to positions taken by conservative media outlet Fox News, Michael Harriot wrote in The Grio that firing white teachers is a great idea.

In contrast, others believe hiring decisions at Minneapolis Public Schools shouldn’t be based on the color of people’s skin.

Employment and labor attorney, Helen Rella, said, “It’s trying to remedy past discrimination with present discrimination, and it’s inappropriate”.

Heritage Foundation fellow, Jonathan Butcher, asserts this is a violation of white teachers’ civil rights. “This is, I think, political posturing. It is not dealing with the most important issue which is helping students right now with math and reading.”

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