On Tuesday, over 300 community members marched around the Edison Administration Building in support of Rochester Public School teachers.
Peaceful protesters held signs asking for teacher and student safety, higher wages for teachers, and for teachers' contract negotiations to be settled.
The previous contract expired in June of last year and negotiations began in August. During negotiation of the last contract, negotiations also ran into the month of March.
Rochester Education Association President Dan Kuhlman says that the march was both for REA members to show support to negotiators, as well as to send a message to the school board to speed up the process.
Superintendent Michael Muñoz recently settled his contract. He feels the teacher contract negotiation timeline is right on track, and that his contract settlement has no connection to theirs. He says that while it is great that protestors are showing support for the negotiation team, the rally will not affect the process.
Kuhlman comments that Rochester teachers are fortunate to be teachers in Minnesota, where they have the right to sit down with the district and have collective bargaining. This is not the case nationally.
One of the other main issues portrayed on signs and in chants at the march was student mental health and teacher safety. Kuhlman says not only in Rochester, but nationally, students are having mental health issues. He continues to explain that if teachers are safe, kids are safe.
Muñoz says, "it's portrayed as if we're not hearing them and we're not doing anything about it but that's not accurate at all."
There have been seven negotiation sessions for the teachers' contracts so far. The next session is scheduled for March 23rd. Muñoz says this session will go longer than usual.