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St. Paul educators plan to strike March 11 unless union, SPPS reach deal

St. Paul teachers announce strike date
St. Paul teachers announce strike date 01:50

ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul educators are ready to hit the picket lines again.

The Saint Paul Federation of Educators announced Monday its members will strike on March 11 if a tentative contract agreement isn't reached with St. Paul Public Schools.

Ninety-two percent of its members voted in favor of authorizing a strike less than two weeks ago, the third vote of its kind in four years. 

RELATED: St. Paul teachers overwhelmingly vote yes to authorize another strike

The last time SPFE members went on strike was in 2020, and a strike was averted at the last minute in 2022. Both sides are required by law to bargain every two years.

The union is pushing for higher salaries; lower health care costs; more staffing; more mental health teams in schools; restorative practices training; and more resources for educators who work with students with special needs.  


Citing both frustration and optimism, SPFE President Leah Vandassor talked with the media, minutes after officially filing an intent to strike. 

"These are the same types of offers that the district has put on the table for at least the last 10 to 15 years," Vandassor said. "This is not a decision our union takes lightly. We know from past experience the impact a strike can have on our students and their families, as well as our educators."

Vandassor says educators have several priorities, but at the top of the list are lower health care costs and higher wages. Vandassor says in previous negotiations the district has offered 2% to 3% pay increases in year one of the contract, and 1.75% in year two.

"The state average right now, especially in the metro area is 4% and a little under 4%. Our membership is seeing that and they feel they are more than worth that at this time," Vandassor said.

SPPS officials say they're "disappointed" by Monday's filing. Officials say the district is currently dealing with a $107 million budget deficit which they attribute to declining enrollment and increased operational expenses, along with expiring COVID-19 relief funds.

MORE NEWS: Strike date set for thousands of Twin Cities essential workers

"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 stability of our district over the long term," said Pat Pratt-Cook, SPPS's executive chief of human resources.

SPPS warns that a strike would mean no school for all students, and high school students "might face challenges earning enough credits for graduation." A strike may also extend the school year into spring and summer breaks.

Bargaining teams from both sides will meet on Friday with state mediators.

Also on Monday, SPPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard was named as the new leader of Wisconsin's Madison Metropolitan School District, where he spent most of his career before moving to Minnesota. Gothard was also named National Superintendent of the Year earlier this month.

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