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Twin Cities Teachers Strike: Picket Signs Prepped As Negotiations Continue

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools have less than a day until their educators walk out of class.

Minneapolis teachers and support staff practiced their picketing Sunday during a rally in front of the district office, where negotiations were happening inside between the union and district. After 12 hours of negotiating Sunday, those talks began again Monday morning.

In St. Paul, negotiations Sunday night went well into the early hours of Monday morning. Those negotiations picked up again before lunchtime Monday.

Sunday's rally in Minneapolis was a dress rehearsal for what could take place Tuesday. That's the earliest about 3,500 Minneapolis teachers and education support professionals could strike. That's not the outcome they want.

"You think I don't want to teach? I'm in the middle of 'Macbeth!'" said Marcia Howard, an English teacher at Roosevelt High School.

Howard and other teachers at the rally said they are taking this stand to benefit the students.

"We are doing whatever it takes to win safe and stable schools," said Clara Dockter, a kindergarten teacher and a strike captain.

The educators' demands include a living wage for the support professionals staff, smaller class sizes, and a counselor and social worker at every school.

They're also looking for more educators of color and higher teacher salaries. The average for Minneapolis teachers is $71,000.

"We are hemorrhaging teachers to other districts who have better pay and better benefits, and who also have things in their contracts like class size caps and mental health supports," Dockter said.

Howard says she's taught classes with nearly 40 students in them.

If an agreement isn't reached, it would be the first Minneapolis teachers strike in more than 50 years.

"It is a risk," Howard said. "I have to look at my colleagues knowing that they have to worry about their next paycheck. We have to make a stand. We have to. There's no other time to do it."

The Minneapolis district says it's committed to negotiating, even with a nearly $100 million budget gap. Teachers point to the state's $9 billion surplus as a potential solution.

St. Paul educators have also voted to potentially go on strike Tuesday. If both strikes happen, more than 60,000 students would be out of class.

Both districts have limited child-care options available.

If teachers do walk off the job, classes will be cancelled. It's unclear how long the strike could last and when the cancellations will be announced.

Leslie Plesser, the mom of a first-grader in Minneapolis, says that parents at her school have created an email chain to help cover child care should classes be cancelled.

"Everyone's being super helpful because...we want to make it as easy on each other as we can," she said.

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