Now St. Paul School Lunch Workers Want More Money

ST. PAUL, Minn. – St. Paul Public Schools is now targeting a $15 an hour minimum wage for all of its employees by 2020, in spite of substantial budget deficits the district is currently facing.

The Pioneer Press reports the school district made the announcement Tuesday as they negotiate with its food service workers. Currently those workers have a minimum wage of $11.66 an hour. A move to $15 an hour would add an additional $350,000 in total costs to the district’s $521 million annual budget.

“Nutrition services earn below a poverty wage and provide a valuable service to our children. Proper nutrition is key to a healthy learning environment. To this point, the district has not been prepared to bargain. We hope for better cooperation in the near future,” Brian Aldes, an officers at Teamsters Local 320 told the Pioneer Press.

St. Paul Public Schools’ are also currently in the midst of efforts to raise its minimum wage for its teaching assistants to $15 an hour. The Pioneer Press reports that a new contract in January included plans to have all 233 of the district’s teaching assistants reach that wage by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. That change is projected to cost the district roughly $600,000 annually.

In total those two sets of wage increases will tack on nearly $1 million in expenses for a district that is running at a significant deficit. In total, school districts in and around the Twin Cities accounted for a total budget deficit of $92 million. St. Paul proper and the school districts in the city’s suburbs account for just a shade under half of that total.

Adding another $1 million in wages will only serve to exacerbate that problem. Significant raises for hundreds of non-teachers may also bring them in conflict with teachers calls for increased funding for schools. Alpha News reported previously that the teachers’ union has called for yet another property tax levy on the St. Paul Public Schools district in an effort to ensure the schools are “racially equitable” for all students.

Anders Koskinen