A Minneapolis teachers union is stipulating that white teachers be laid off or reassigned before “educators of color,” allegedly “to remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination by the District.”
Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) have seen a massive drop-off in student enrollment, leading to layoffs of teachers with little seniority — something that is typical within the teaching profession. But the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) is opting for racial standards before seniority to guarantee “educators of color protections,” Alpha News reported Sunday.
“Starting with the Spring 2023 Budget Tie-Out Cycle, if excessing a teacher who is a member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers in the site, the District shall excess the next least senior teacher, who is not a member of an underrepresented population,” the agreement says. “Excessing” refers to the reduction of staff.
Teachers of color “may be exempted from district-wide layoff[s] outside seniority order,” the agreement says, adding that the reinstatement of teachers from “underrepresented populations” will be prioritized over white teachers, according to Alpha News.
The racial stipulation was added, in part, in the name of social justice; or “to remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination by the District.”
“Past discrimination by the District disproportionately impacted the hiring of underrepresented teachers in the District, as compared to the relevant labor market and the community, and resulted in a lack of diversity of teachers,” the agreement reads.
Speaking to the Star Tribune in June, Edward Barlow, a black teacher from MPS, praised the pending stipulation as a rule that could be used as a national model.
“It can be a national model, and schools in other states are looking to emulate what we did,” said Barlow, a band teacher at Anwatin Middle School and a member of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers executive board, according to the Tribune. “Even though it doesn’t do everything that we wanted it to do, it’s still a huge move forward for the retention of teachers of color.”
“There’s so much more than seniority at stake here,” he continued. “This is a bigger conversation about working conditions, compensation, and microagressions in the workplace. Those are the pieces that this district also needs to reflect on and make some motions to improve.”
Researcher Katie Pekel, principal in residence at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, boosted the racial standard, too.
“This is a small piece of a larger puzzle,” she said of the contract language. “We would argue that the recruitment and retention of teachers of color is actually predicated on, ‘Do you have a culturally responsive leader and an environment that is humanizing and affirming to those educators?'”