White teachers will be first to be dismissed to ‘remedy effects of past discrimination’

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Schools in Minneapolis will be allowed to dismiss white teachers before teachers of colour in order to “remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination”.

The Minneapolis public school system struck an agreement with a local union that teachers from minority backgrounds can be protected if schools are forced to reduce staffing levels because of falls in enrollment or funding.

Around 60 per cent of Minneapolis students are non-white compared to 16 per cent of the district’s permanent teachers, according to a June Minneapolis Star Tribune report.

Teachers will be subject to redundancy or relocation in order of seniority, with the least senior being the first to go.

However, in the case that a teacher is “a member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers”, the seniority protocols can be ignored and “the district shall excess [remove] the next least senior teacher, who is not a member of an underrepresented population”.

The same measure applies to bringing back teachers who may have been let go for a variety of reasons as part of an effort to “support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups”.

A spokesperson for Minneapolis Public Schools said in a statement: “To remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) mutually agreed to contract language that aims to support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups as compared to the labour market and to the community served by the school district.”

“It can be a national model, and schools in other states are looking to emulate what we did,” said Edward Barlow, a member of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers executive board.

But the move has been met with criticism in some circles.

Scott Walker, former Wisconsin governor, tweeted: “This is racist. This is illegal. This is another example of why government unions should be eliminated.”