Anoka-Hennepin Teachers Rally Ahead of Contract Mediation
Union teachers at the Anoka-Hennepin School District met for a rally on Monday outside of a school board meeting at the Anoka-Hennepin Sandburg Education Center.
Clad in Santa hats and holiday sweaters, teachers gathered ahead of the board meeting in a show of solidarity.
The school district — which is one of Minnesota’s largest — and its teachers haven’t been able to reach a contract agreement.
“It’s cold outside and all we want for our holidays is a fair contract settlement,” said John Wolhaupter, lead negotiator for the Anoka-Hennepin teacher’s union. “It’s frustrating that we are having to spend this night here arguing for the future of our profession and for our students.”
The union and the school district have been in contract negotiations since the summer.
Union officials say teachers want higher wages and a voice in determining class sizes. They’re also asking for mentorship programs and additional supports for special education teachers.
“The offers from the district also do not represent the value of the work that you do,” Wolhaupter told a crowd of supporters.
Mediation for Contract Negotiation
The union called for a mediator to assist in the contract negotiations starting in January. The first mediated negotiation session is scheduled for Jan. 3.
“The district is committed to the goal of improving terms and conditions for employees while working within tight budget parameters to maintain financial and operational stability for the district,” a district spokesperson said.
During Monday’s school board meeting, Todd Mensink, director of labor relations and benefits for Anoka-Hennepin Schools, told board members he was “hoping to make real progress” during the mediation session.
Meanwhile, Anoka-Hennepin School Board Member Jeff Simon said it’s important for the district to maintain its funding reserves while paying teachers.
“In general, I’m in agreement — I want to provide as much as possible in our budget,” he said. “Having a fund balance allows us to not go into a cycle of cut and add, cut and add.”
Union officials stated that the district received $65 million in new funding from the legislature to support students and staff.
A district spokesperson disputed the $65 million statistic.
“This number can only be reached by counting the new funding provided by the legislature in the first year of the biennium twice, in each year of the contract,” the spokesperson said.
Anoka-Hennepin Teachers Rally For Pay Increase
Regardless of funding reserves, the union says teachers need a pay increase — and they need it now.
“Even the most recent offer by the district remains below the statewide average of settlements reached so far,” Wolhaupter said.
A district spokesperson noted that the median salary for teachers is currently $77,702. Under the latest contract proposal from the district, median salary would increase to $84,364 in the 2024-2025 school year.
The union and the district cannot negotiate terms while mediation is pending. So, both teachers and the district will have to wait until after the holidays to see if they can hammer out an agreement.
“We were told at one of our earlier sessions [that the teaching staff in] Anoka-Hennepin is not the highest paid, it is not the lowest paid,” Wolhaupter said. Rather, their pay is “sort of average. We would like to change that as part of our contract settlement. And recognize the exceptional work that educators across the district do for students.”