MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Thousands of Twin Cities teachers are close to walking out of the classroom.
Their unions told the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts on Wednesday that they will strike if they can't reach a deal by March 8.
It's clear what educators want is not lining up with what districts say they can spend. Educators in both cities want more student mental health support, smaller class sizes and higher wages.
But superintendents say that's clashing with declining enrollment and limited budgets.
If there's no agreement by March 7, it will be the first Minneapolis educator strike in more than 50 years.
The superintendents in both districts say they want to see improvements, too. But they don't see a clear way to pay for them.
"Our educators deserve everything they're asking for in a new contract," St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard said. "At the same time, we have fewer students, fewer resources and less money to meet these needs."
"MPS has to weigh the impact of a strike now against the impact of students and families in the future if we spend money we don't have," Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff said.
Some educators say that if budget's are that tight, the state may want to rethink things. For context, the Minneapolis union is bargaining for a starting wage of $35,000 for unlicensed support professionals.
"This also needs to be wake-up call to our elected leaders in St. Paul. Something has to happen. Something has to change they need to invest that money in our schools," said Shaun LaDen, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals.
Minneapolis North Community High School 10th grader Asiah Bankhead says she supports her teachers.
"I do think our priorities … are really messed," Bankhead said. "If they feel like they need to do it for the resources they want, I feel like they should do it."
MPS parent Courtney Drayton hopes a strike can be avoided -- and she's not alone.
"They do so much and they're underappreciated," Drayton said. "If they go on strike there will be so many other issues, so many other problems on top of that."
Educators also pointed out turnover and retention issues Wednesday. Minneapolis union leaders say they've lost 645 teachers from their union alone over the past year and a half for a number of reasons.
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