According to several critics, a contract between the Minneapolis teachers’ union and the Minneapolis Public Schools violates both the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. According to recent reports, the contract states that white teachers will be terminated before teachers of color, regardless of seniority.
Minnesota media outlet Alpha News reported that, under the agreement, teachers of color “may be exempt from district-wide layoffs outside of seniority order.” 60 percent of Minneapolis students are nonwhite, compared with 27 percent of its intern teachers, per a report by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Jonathan Butcher, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News, “The first thing is that this contract violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause under the U.S. Constitution.” Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
According to the article, the agreement stipulated that “past discrimination” had resulted in an “underrepresentation” of the district’s teachers in the community “and resulted in a lack of teacher diversity.” Alpha News reported that a representative of the Upper Midwest Law Center declared the agreement to be “unconstitutional.”
“The [collective bargaining agreement] … openly discriminates against white teachers based only on the color of their skin, and not their seniority or merit,” James Dickey, lead trial counsel at UMLC, is quoted as saying. Albert Shanker, past president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “it will be the first time in U.S. history that a federal court, acting in the name of the Constitution, has ruled that people must lose their job on the basis of race.” While others, like Catrin Wigfall, a senior fellow at the Minnesota-based think tank Center for the American Experiment, claimed that, even though the police may be talking about a “laudable goal,” the approach is flawed, said a report on Fox News.
Meanwhile, Cristine Trooien, Executive Director of the Minnesota Parents Alliance, was critical of all aspects of the policy. She decried both the first-in and last-out system as well as the dismissal of teachers based on race. “When it comes to staffing our schools, there are two practices that all but guarantee an erosion of the high-quality of instruction that every student deserves. [last-in, first-out] and using race as a basis for hiring and firing,” Trooien stated. “Adopting either of these misguided practices will undoubtedly lead to a righteous outcry from engaged parents and excellent teachers alike. Both need to be eliminated.”
The Star Tribune reported that union leaders described the contract as one of the first of its kind in the country and a “huge step forward for the retention of teachers of color.” According to the newspaper, the affirmative action move would not impact the over four dozen teachers who may lose their jobs due to the declining enrollment. “It can be a national model, and schools in other states are looking to emulate what we did,” Edward Barlow, board member of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said.