Thousands of educators are on strike in Minneapolis, two years into a pandemic that has pushed public education to a breaking point across the country. With the future of education in unprecedented limbo, the stakes are high—and not just in the Twin Cities.
Public schools were in crisis well before Covid-19. Especially in a predominantly non-white, working-class school districts like Minneapolis, decades of underfunding, privatizationhigh-stakes testing, and low educator pay made it increasingly difficult for teachers and support staff to provide the education their students deserve.
To overcome such conditions, an unprecedented upsurge in strikes erupted from West Virginia to Los Angeles in 2018 and 2019.”Red for Ed” succeeded in energizing educators, capturing headlines, and challenging the bipartisan consensus in favor of privatizing education, but its progress was abruptly checked by the pandemic. Nowhere was this dynamic clearer than in St. Paul, where teachers and support staff were three days into a strike in March 2020 when Covid-19 forced at the end of their action. While other sectors of organized labor have recently shown promising Signs of militancy, school workers throughout the pandemic have just struggled to keep their heads above water.
In the Twin Cities and beyond, the past two years have reversed Red for Ed’s political momentum and exacerbated structural stressors and inequities, resulting in increased educator outflows from the profession and increased family outflows from public schools. By late 2021, a quarter of teachers, and almost half of Black teachers, indicated in national surveys that they were considering leaving their jobs. Over the past 18 months, Minneapolis Public Schools have lost over 640 teachers and support professionals.