A few hundred educators and families gathered in downtown Minneapolis on Monday to rally for higher wages and better working conditions for educational support professionals (ESPs) working in Minneapolis public schools.
The union representing about 1,200 Minneapolis ESPs filed for mediation Friday. Unions representing teachers and clerical workers in Minneapolis schools also are in mediation with the district, which was closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The starting wage for an ESP in Minneapolis is about $24,000, said Shaun Laden, president of the ESP chapter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. The union is pushing to raise that to $35,000. Many ESPs work two or three jobs and he's heard from members living in their cars because they couldn't afford housing, Laden said.
As the group marched through the streets of downtown on Monday, many waved signs that read, "One job should be enough."
"We like to say, 'We make school happen,'" Laden said of the roles of ESPs in education. "The inverse of that is we can also make school not happen."
The district previously has said all employees are "key partners in quality learning" and that it will "prioritize students and promote learning and working environments that welcome, respect and value diversity and focus on student achievement and outcomes."