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St. Paul teachers' union set to vote on possible strike this week

The teachers are asking for smaller class sizes, better pay, and expanded student programs.

St. Paul teachers will soon decide whether to hold a strike as they seek smaller class sizes, better pay and expanded student programs from the school district. 

The Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) announced Thursday that the union's executive board had unanimously voted to authorize a strike vote, which will be held on Thursday, February 17.

SPFE says the decision, which came after "months of negotiations and eight mediation sessions," was made with "the overwhelming support of SPFE's membership through petition":

"After two years of teaching and supporting our students and families during a pandemic, we did not make this decision lightly," the news release says. 

The union says St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) has "engaged in minimal discussions on issues that are important to educators and has proposed to remove key provisions from our contracts such as class size limits, guaranteed student mental health supports, and building substitutes."

In addition to smaller class sizes, the union is also seeking "fully staffed mental health teams in every building," more support for students with disabilities, and a "living wage" for educational assistance.

The educators also say that SPPS is only offering a 1.5% wage increase, while surrounding school districts are offering "significantly higher increases for educators" — a situation that SPFE says will "impede our ability to attract and retain teachers and support staff."

With a strike vote now looming, St. Paul teachers took to the streets for a demonstration on Saturday, joined by their Minneapolis counterparts — who are currently lobbying their own district for improved pay and conditions for students, among other demands. 

The two groups braved the bitter cold to march from Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis to Hillcrest Regional Park in St. Paul:

Per KARE 11, SPPS superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard said in a press conference Friday that the union's demands aren't within the budget, as the district "can't spend more money than it takes in."

The station says he also noted upgrades the district has made recently, including bolstering the number of counselors and social workers.

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