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St. Paul teachers to take a vote on strike action

Union leaders are trying to negotiate a settlement with the school district.

St. Paul teachers will be asked whether to authorize a strike when they take a vote next Thursday, Feb. 20.

The strike vote was authorized by the St. Paul Federation of Educators, whose executive board unanimously voted in favor, in turn after seeing "overwhelming" support for action from its membership via a petition. 

If teachers vote in favor of action, it could mean a school strike in early March.

"We did not make this decision lightly, but we are certain that a strike vote is necessary if we hope to reach a settlement with the district that respects our students’ needs and honors our educators’ voices," the SPFE said in a statement on Tuesday.

"After nearly a year of negotiating, the District still isn’t taking our student-centered proposals seriously and has refused to have any real discussion around educator pay and benefits.”

The union says it has been negotiating with the St. Paul Public School District for a year, with among the demands being made including adding a "fully staffed mental health team in every building to help address the growing mental health crisis in our schools."

It's also calling for caseloads to be lightened for special education staff, additional multilingual staff to boost integration within school communities, and "appropriate assignments" so teachers and staff can give students more one-on-one time.

It's also calling for salary increases of 3.4 and 2 percent, per the Pioneer Press.

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In a statement on Tuesday, St. Paul Public Schools' Superintendent Joe Gothard said he was "extremely disappointed" the union is pursing 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.

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