ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Teachers in St. Paul are sending a strong message.
On Wednesday night, they voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
Leaders of the teachers union and school district administrators have failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.
Leaders of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) say they’re frustrated by the lack of progress at the bargaining table on the issues most important to them.
“Making sure every school has a licensed school nurse and a librarian and our kids have access to mental health supports like a psychologist, social worker, school counselor,” said Erica Schatzlein, the vice president of SPFT. “And our class sizes are small enough so teachers can build relationships with our students.”
About two-thirds of the union’s 3,700 members turned out Wednesday to vote on authorizing a strike. Eighty-five percent of teachers and licensed staff voted yes.
“Teachers have reached their limit with the district not listening to what they need and what we know our students need,” Schatzlein said.
St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard said he’s disappointed by the vote and expressed concern for families who could be impacted.
“Still I remain hopeful we can move forward on additional agreements to avoid disruptions to our students, staff and families,” he added.
Mayor Melvin Carter issued a statement:
“Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to Superintendent Gothard, leaders of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, and several school board members directly. I am confident that we are all united in our desire to provide premier education in our public schools. I encourage all parties to remain at the mediation table in good faith. Collectively, we are bound by a commitment to move forward in a productive manner that serves Saint Paul children and families well,” Carter said.
The district anticipates another budget shortfall for the upcoming school year as it continues to struggle with declining enrollment.
The next negotiating session between leaders of the teachers’ union and school district administrators takes place Friday.
Both sides are hoping for some progress.