St. Paul Public Schools officials speak after teachers file strike notice

St. Paul school teachers file strike notice

St. Paul school teachers file strike notice

St. Paul Public School officials offered an update on Tuesday morning after members of the St. Paul Federation of Educators made plans to go on strike next month.

In a release sent out Monday morning by the union, representatives say they will file their intent to strike notice sometime during the afternoon hours, and add that, if necessary, a strike will begin on Monday, March 11.

More than 92% of voting union members authorized a strike earlier this month.

“It’s the highest strike vote ‘yes’ turnout that we’ve ever had on any of the strike votes we’ve done,” SPFE President Leah VanDassor said Monday. “We keep having to have them, which is also sad, and that has not moved the district much at all, so we now need to take this next step.”

St. Paul Public Schools said it was “disappointed” in the decision.

“We want to assure the community that the Saint Paul Public Schools Bargaining team is working tirelessly to continue contract talks and reach an agreement that values our educators while ensuring the financial stablity of our district over the long term,” SPPS Executive Chief of Human Resources Pat Pratt-Cook said in a statement.

SPPS adds that if a strike does occur, there will be no school for students in PreK-12, Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) and Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE). Varsity athletics would continue in a case-by-case basis, and the school year could be extended into spring break or summer. The district also cautioned that high school students could face challenges earning enough credits for graduation.

RELATED: St. Paul Public Schools teachers vote to authorize strike

Mediation between the two sides began in December, and another full-day mediation session is scheduled for March 1.

SPFE union members last went on strike in 2020 but have taken strike votes during each of the past four bargaining cycles.

Union leaders say they are asking for additional mental health teams, lower health insurance costs and better wages.

SPPS says its budget allows for a 2-3% wage increase over the first year, followed by 1.75% more the next year. District officials also caution that educators’ wage demands would put them almost $100 million over budget.

Leaders of SPFE say teachers have been working without a contract since July 1 and filed for mediation with the district in December.

According to the district, SPFE members are working under the contract for 2021 and 2023 until a new one is settled, which they add is standard practice across school districts and other public entities.