Minnesota schools are still understaffed, especially for special education

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Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Massive staffing shortages in some public school districts in Minnesota have delayed the return to normalcy for many children.

Driving the news: Minneapolis public schools have 650 vacancies, the Star Tribune reports, and parents and teachers are calling for help.

  • St. Paul’s public schools lost 300 positions heading into the school year, according to the Sahan Journal.

Why is this important: Many parents hoped schools would operate as they did before the pandemic so their children could get back on track. But the Star Tribune report paints a chaotic picture.

  • Minneapolis lost 135 special education staff.
  • The father of an autistic child says nurses and school principals took over and he saw his son demote. “It’s basically babysitting,” he told the Star Tribune.

Zoom out: Anoka–Hennepin Schools was also short by 280 positions, many of which were concentrated in special education and student nutrition, per Sahan Journal.

Yes, but: Not all districts feel the same pain. Public schools in Wayzata, a wealthy district, were only short of five positions, the Sahan Journal reported.

  • Public schools in Osseo, a more racially and economically diverse district, also had only a small number of vacancies.

What is happening: St. Paul recruits teachers with expired licenses, classroom assistants ready to try teaching, college professors, and even fitness instructors.

  • Minneapolis is still adjusting its enrollment as it recalibrates after a drop of 1,300 students from last year and 8,700 from five years ago, according to the Star Tribune.

Between the lines: Most education support professionals at Minneapolis schools got a starting pay raise of about $20 an hour to $24 under a new contract that was negotiated to end to a strike last spring.

  • Yes, but: Chris Williams, spokesman for the Education Minnesota teachers’ union, told Axios that inflation has pushed the private sector to pay faster than the contract rate, creating more competition as schools jostle for positions.

The bottom line: Labor shortages are a problem for most organizations in Minnesota, as the state’s unemployment rate hits 2% and there are 4.1 job openings for every unemployed worker.

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