A Minneapolis teachers’ union has negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) that in the event of layoffs, MPS must release white teachers before non-white teachers, rather than making those decisions according to seniority.
While some may have advocated for seniority to play less of a role in determining which teachers are retained if staff reductions become necessary, that discussion usually focuses on merit as part of a strategy to retain the best teachers. However, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) and MPS agreed that any necessary teacher terminations would be based on skin color.
In March, the MFT went on strike, canceling classes for all students for two weeks to negotiate a new contract. That contract included a clause that if MPS needs to reduce its number of teachers, which is referred to as “excessing,” white teachers must be excessed before non-white teachers.
Typically, excessing in schools is based on seniority. According to the contract, “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 contract also states that non-white teachers “may be exempted from district-wide layoff[s] outside seniority order.” The contract also requires that non-white teachers be reinstated first.
The contract states that this policy is to “remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination” and “ensure continuity of instruction.”
The document explains,
“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.”
Moreover, the contract adds, “Students need educators who look like them and who they can relate to. This language gives us the ability to identify and address issues that contribute to disproportionately high turnover of educators of color.”
Once the diversity of the teachers in the district represents that of the community and labor market the policies are no longer to be in effect.
Not surprisingly, the policy has many critics. James Dickey a senior trial attorney at Upper Midwest Law Center, said that the contract clause is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment, explaining that the Supreme Court already ruled on this issue in the 1986 case of Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education. “They clearly struck down a layoff scheme that was based on the color skin just like this one. There is no question that this is unconstitutional.
Former teacher Leo Terrell agreed, saying,
“…the law is unconstitutional. It’s discriminatory. It’s affirmative action, which is illegal, and it’s racist. Besides being a schoolteacher, I was a civil rights attorney. My whole goal as a civil rights attorney is to eliminate the game of playing the race card. And what you have here is people out in the open playing the race card. And I’d like to see some data that says a kid learns better if they have a teacher that looks like them. They need experienced and qualified teachers. Period.”
Christopher Rufo, an investigative journalist and critic of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) measures, tweeted, “The Minneapolis teachers union has negotiated a contract in which the district will fire white teachers first. This is the inevitable endpoint of ‘equity.’”
It is hard to imagine that this contract could possibly be deemed constitutional. The policy discriminates based purely on race and no other factor. Seniority, which is supposedly the fair way that schools have traditionally decided these issues is being thrown out in favor of race. A legal challenge should stop such discrimination in its tracks.
But the problem is bigger than this one issue. When teachers shut down schools for two weeks, they claimed it was about the students and about fair pay, but one of their demands was regarding so-called underrepresented community teachers. As teachers’ unions have routinely done, they position themselves as though they are heroes fighting for students, when, in reality, their goals are self-serving.
At the time a deal was struck, MFT tweeted, “These historic agreements contain important wins for our students and the safe and stable schools they deserve. These deals are what 4,500 MFT members went on strike for. Details will be coming out shortly, but it is important to note that major gains were made on pay for [ESPs], protection for educators of color, class size caps and mental health supports.”
MPS Superintendent Ed Graff said, “This has been a life-changing experience for all of us. Through it all, we have seen the power and passion of our community, the commitment of our staff and the intense need to focus on our students. I believe MPS and MFT have arrived at a fair and equitable agreement that honors the requests and needs of our staff.”
You see how this works? Those same teachers, the members of that teachers’ union, who shut down schools for two weeks, preventing students from being in class and likely creating havoc for parents, are hailed for their dedication.
The reality is that teachers’ unions are leftist organizations that seek to implement a woke agenda on communities. They push radical ideologies in the classroom and try to censor anyone who doesn’t agree. They openly promote abortion on demand. And they negotiate the right to fire teachers according to race rather than seniority while bristling at the idea that teachers should be fired or retained based on merit. Never listen to the rosy portrayals that all teachers are warriors so dedicated to students that might as well be their parent or that the teachers’ unions always fight for better schools and the best interests of children.
How does it help students to retain teachers based on race? This contract teaches students that people of another skin color are so different that they can’t learn properly from them, bringing up recollections of Jim Crow-era thinking, only in reverse. This divisive and discriminatory policy flies in the face of the color-blind society the Civil Rights Movement fought for.
What is truly tragic is that many are trying to implement this same racist thinking into churches in the name of repairing allegedly past discrimination and racism. Don’t fall for it. This is an attempt to destroy the Church from within.
We’ve seen it before. The church in Corinth, for example, was divided, with one of the key divisions centered around which teacher they followed or who baptized them. Paul called out church members for their un-Christian acrimony in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13:
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, decried such divisions, explaining to them that we are all one in Christ. Christians today who prefer to fixate on race divide the Church, leaving Christians saying, “I am black,” “I am white,” “I am Hispanic,” “I am Asian,” rather than “I belong to Christ.”
Christians must reject this kind of race-based obsession, as any attempt to divide the Church based on immutable characteristics such as skin color is unbiblical. Christ sees us by our hearts and our souls and our character, not our flesh. And since Christians are called to model His example, we should do the same.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.