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Amid strike, St. Paul Public Schools sends layoff notices to teaching assistants

The district says the step is necessary to protect itself financially.

Teaching assistants at St. Paul Public Schools were informed this week they will be laid off if the teaching strike proves to be prolonged.

Workers were informed of their impending layoff on Tuesday, with the teaching strike still ongoing as St. Paul schools close for the third day of the week on Thursday. 

One of the notices obtained by Workday Minnesota says that due to the St. Paul Federation of Educators strike, teaching assistants "will be placed on layoff status."

"The purpose of this communication is to notify you that should the strike continue, your last day of employment will be March 23, 2020," it adds.

In a press conference on Wednesday, St. Paul Public Schools' Executive Director of Human Resources Kenyatta McCarty said that the measure was a necessary "precaution" to keep the district financially stable amid the ongoing strike.

"The district's revenue directly tied to enrollment and completing a full school year," she said. "Layoffs may become necessary to protect the district from financial damage tied to the loss of revenue."

"Before layoffs can take place, notice is required under collective bargaining agreements."

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She went on to say that the district's hope is that a contract with teaching unions can be settled before layoffs are necessary.

Workday Minnesota, the organized labor news outlet, described the move as an attempt to "pit workers against workers."

Hundreds of teachers have been marching and picketing in St. Paul since the strike started on Tuesday, with 36,000 students kept at home for three days resulting from the strike.

Negotiations are expected to resume on Thursday.

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