St. Paul teachers union heads mull strike vote; district braces - KMSP-TV

St. Paul teachers union executives mull strike vote; district braces

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

On Monday, educators, parents and district officials in St. Paul anxiously awaited to learn whether union leaders would schedule a strike vote on Monday amid an 8-month stalemate in contract negotiations.

According to an internal e-mail from St. Paul Public School District, the executive team of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers has begun a process that will ask the 3,200 members whether they support a strike.

In the e-mail obtained by Fox 9 News, which can be read in full below, district officials confirmed that if the union does elect to strike, classes would be canceled at all St. Paul Public schools throughout the duration of the strike.

MORE: Monday vote could pave way for teacher strike in St. Paul

The meeting of the board began at 4:30 p.m. and is closed to the public. Union leaders do not plan to be available for comment after the 23-member board wraps up; however, a short explanation of the next steps are expected to be posted online by Monday night. 

"We've reached a complicated time in our negotiations with the district and we want to make sure our members hear the latest developments from us first," said Mary Cathryn Ricker, president of the union. "We also understand how important strong schools are to children, parents and our neighbors. We'll have more to say to everyone Tuesday morning."

NEW: Union leaders call for Feb. 24 vote on strike

Monday night's meeting wrapped up just after 7:15 p.m., but the members were tight-lipped as they left. When asked whether a decision had been reached, one member told Fox 9 News, "I don't know. I can't really talk about it. Thank you."

E-MAIL FROM ST. PAUL SUPERINTENDENT

Dear Colleagues:

As you may have seen in news reports this past weekend, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers Executive Team has begun a process to ask its 3,200 members if they support a strike. On Monday, a union leadership meeting will be held to discuss the possibility of scheduling a strike vote.

The primary goal in contract negotiations with the teachers' union is to agree on a contract that will be fair to St. Paul's talented and hard-working teachers, and that will allow our school district to effectively manage within its limited financial resources.

Hopefully you have had the chance to visit our SPPS negotiations website, spps.org/workingtogether, which outlines the progress we've made to date – including tentative agreements on 13 of 27 remaining union proposals. Agreements have not yet been reached about class size, testing requirements, school support staff, and teacher wages and benefits.

You should know that if the teacher's union chooses to strike, classes will be canceled for all Saint Paul Public School students for the unknown duration of the strike.

Before we reach that point, our district negotiators will continue to meet with union leadership at the negotiations table in an effort to secure a signed contract that will ensure our teachers have the resources they need to provide our students with the premier education we have promised them.

Many of the proposals the teachers' union has brought forward during negotiations absolutely deserve attention, either at the negotiations table or another acceptable venue. At the same time, as stewards of your tax dollars, district leadership must balance the $150 million those proposals cost against other worthy efforts to make our schools stronger.

Stay warm this week as we continue to face an unseasonably cold February.

Your very proud superintendent,

Valeria S. Silva

AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE

The union and the district have been unable to come to an agreement on numerous proposals that both sides acknowledge as important while differing on how to fund and implement them. Some of the items on the negotiating table include: 

- Capping class sizes
- Hiring additional counselors
- Moving away from standardized tests

Despite eight months of talks, the groups also have no agreement on wages and benefits.

The last time St. Paul's teachers went on strike was in 1946.

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