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Anoka-Hennepin teachers set April strike vote

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Teachers in Minnesota's biggest school district have scheduled a strike vote for April 17.

KSTP reports 2,800 teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin School District will gather at the National Sports Center in Blaine to vote on whether to authorize a strike. Contract talks that started 10 months ago have yielded no agreement.

Julie Blaha, the president of the teachers union Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota said in a statement: “We still hope to negotiate an affordable contract that’s good for our students and our profession. Unfortunately, our negotiations are stuck."

After union leaders set the strike vote Monday evening the district did not offer an immediate response. But the Star Tribune reports the vote surprised some district officials who thought the two sides were near an agreement in last week's talks.

By all accounts, pay and benefits have been the main sticking points in the negotiations. The Star Tribune says in December teachers asked for 2.5 percent raises in each of the two years of a new contract.

Blaha tells the Pioneer Press teachers are ready to accept more modest pay increases but do not agree with proposed changes in health insurance and in when new teachers would qualify for raises based on experience and training. The district maintains the union's demands are too expensive.

The Pioneer Press says the superintendent and staff met at the district offices Monday to start putting together a strike plan. While the union scheduled a strike vote in 2002, there hasn't been an actual teacher walkout in the district since 1981. If a strike is authorized on April 17, it would trigger a 10-day cooling off period before any strike could begin, the newspaper reports.

MPR says the union and district have met 16 times since May, most recently with a mediator. But no negotiations are currently scheduled.

Last month teachers in St. Paul scheduled a strike vote but were able to reach a contract agreement with the district before it was held.

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