A teacher strike in St. Paul moved one step closer to reality as the Saint Paul Federation of Educations (SPFE) approved such action Thursday night.
The organization announced that nearly two-thirds of members participated, with 82 percent voting yes to strike.
"A strike date will be announced next week," the SPFE announced, noting that state law requires at least 10 days notice before a strike is enacted, putting the earliest possible strike in early March.
The vote was deemed "necessary" by the SPFE, which previously said it hopes to "reach a settlement with the district that respects our students' needs and honors our educators' voices."
Negotiations between SPFE and Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) has been happening for nearly a year, with the SPFE recently saying the district "still isn’t taking our student-centered proposals seriously and has refused to have any real discussion around educator pay and benefits.”
Among the union's demands are salary increases and a "fully staffed mental health team in every building to help address the growing mental health crisis in our schools." It's also aiming to reduce caseloads for special education staff and more multilingual staff.
There are more than 37,000 students enrolled in the district, including a diverse population with more than 125 languages and dialects.
Earlier this month, SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard expressed disappointment in the union's pursuit of a strike.
"SPPS has been negotiating in good faith with members of SPFE since last May. We have made progress on a number of issues and are planning on continuing to meet in mediation as scheduled," he said.
"[The strike authorization] will not deter our efforts to reach a fair settlement, one that puts the needs of students first, is fiscally responsible and is equitable with agreements we’ve reached with our other collective bargaining units."
Gothard continued to say he's committed to reaching an agreement with unions before a strike can happen.