St. Paul teachers authorize strike
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Updated: 10:39 a.m. | Posted: 6:17 a.m.
The St. Paul Federation of Teachers says its membership has voted to authorize a strike.
The union represents about 3,700 teachers, educational assistants and support staff in St. Paul Public Schools.
Union spokesperson Patrick Burke said about two-thirds of members voted and 80 percent of the votes were in favor of authorizing a strike.
"None of our members want to want to walk out on strike. They want to be in the classroom, teaching students. And negotiations will definitely continue, and we will do everything we can do to avoid walking out," he said. "But our members also made it very clear that they're going to stand up for the schools that St. Paul children deserve."
In a statement, St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard said he was "disappointed by the vote and concerned for all our families who will feel the impact first. Still, I remain hopeful we can move forward on additional agreements to avoid disruptions to our students, staff and families."
The district withdrew a proposal that had been a sticking point after mediation late last month. District leaders had sought to give principals control over the majority of teachers' out-of-class time and mandate a 40-hour work week. Union leaders said the proposal would have resulted in more teacher time spent in meetings.
But the two sides still haven't reached agreement on competing ideas about class size and staffing. Teachers want to lower class size caps and increase support for English Language learners and special education students. District proposals would maintain class size caps and only apply them at schools where enrollment is at least 95 percent of capacity.
The union has also said it objects to proposals by the district to eliminate union leave and make it easier for schools to put teachers on improvement plans. The union said a proposed 1 percent pay increase isn't enough.
The union's board says it will file an intent to strike Thursday. That would start the clock ticking on a 10-day cooling off period before teachers and staff could strike.
If union groups and the district reached agreement in the meantime, no strike would occur. The district and the teachers' union are scheduled to meet in mediation sessions Friday and Feb. 7.
St. Paul is one of the state's largest school districts, with more than 37,000