Teachers and education support staff in the Twin Cities could strike as early as March 8.
The unions that represent teachers and staff in Minneapolis and St. Paul filed their intent to strike paperwork with the state on Wednesday, triggering a 10-day cooling-off period before they can go on strike.
Members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals (MFT 59) and the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) resoundingly voted on Feb. 17 to authorize a strike if they couldn't reach contract agreements with their districts.
Educators have been negotiating with their respective districts for months, but progress stalled over issues that include mental health support for students, limiting class sizes, paying support staff and hourly workers more, and retaining teachers of color, among other things.
The districts have pushed back against the unions' demands. In Minneapolis, Superintendent Ed Graff said the district can't afford increases in payroll or other costs, citing lower enrollment, underfunding of public education, and increased costs.
Graff said Wednesday the district will work 24/7 to reach an agreement and avoid a strike.
"We still hold that a strike action is an action of last resort and we still believe that tentative agreements for both chapters can be reached in the coming scheduled mediation sessions," MFT 59 said in a statement Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the SPFE during a news conference Wednesday said they would prefer not to strike and would continue to work toward a contract agreement.
St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard said Wednesday educators deserve everything they're asking for but noted the district has fewer students, fewer resources, and less money to meet those needs. He said the bargaining teams plan to meet several times before March 8 in hopes of reaching an agreement and avoiding a strike.
If a deal isn't reached between the unions and districts by then, and educators strike, classes would be canceled for students.