Updated: 02/20/2014 4:56 PM
Created: 02/09/2014 8:54 PM KSTP.com
By: Leslie Dyste
St. Paul teachers will vote on whether to strike on Monday, Feb. 24.
Union officials say they "did not see progress on priorities" during recent negotiations.
The two sides have struggled to agree on union proposals that involve capping class sizes and reducing time spent on standardized tests. The district says that if they met all of the union’s demands it would cost $150 million over the two-year contract. They also say that if they dropped standardized testing they could risk losing $60 million in federal funding.
There are more than 3,000 teachers at St. Paul Public Schools. If the teachers strike, classes would be canceled because the district says they don’t have the resources they would need to get substitutes in place.
Tonya Stewart Downey, representing St. Paul Public Schools, released the following statement:
"We were extremely disappointed to learn that the leadership of the teachers union has decided to schedule a vote on whether to strike. This is not the news we were hoping for. Despite today’s decision we intend to continue negotiating with the teachers union with the intent of reaching an agreement. We look forward to the scheduled mediation sessions on Feb. 20 and March 6.
If the teachers do decide to strike it will impact the lives of tens of thousands of children, as well as their families, for an undetermined amount of time and in ways we can’t even begin to quantify. Any day lost, particularly after we lost five full classroom days in January due to cold weather, could prove detrimental to many SPPS students.
While Saint Paul Public Schools believes a strike would be a poor choice for the education needs of St. Paul’s children, the teachers union has the lawful right to strike. We respect that right, but strongly disagree that issues between SPPS and teachers union that should lead to a call for strike. Our goal has been and remains to work together with the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers to offer a premier education for all through the District’s strategic plan, Strong Schools, Strong Communities. It is unfortunate that the leadership of the teachers union sees things differently.
Saint Paul Public Schools will continue to do its very best on behalf of the children who depend on us."
Negotiations began last May, and a mediator has been helping in the process. Teachers rallied outside each public school about two weeks ago to try to gain support.
The time and location of the vote on Feb. 24 have not yet been determined.