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St. Paul Community Leaders Say A Teachers Strike Would Hurt Students

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- As a possible teachers strike looms, negotiations in St. Paul are still ongoing between the school district and the teachers union.

Discussions on Sunday lasted through the night until 4 a.m. Monday. Those discussions picked up again late Monday morning. At issue are things such as teacher pay, class sizes and mental health services for students.

Across the river in Minneapolis, teachers are also threatening to walk off the job if similar issues aren't addressed. Both unions could strike Tuesday morning.

Outside the St. Paul district office on Monday, the Minnesota Parent Union and the African American Leadership Council spoke out against a potential strike.

"Our teachers unions want a raise, they're demanding a raise, they have threatened to strike," said Rashad Turner, of the Minnesota Parent Union. "While at the same time, we know our kids can't read."

The community groups say that St. Paul teachers should be concerned about the achievement gap, with students of color lagging behind, and what will happen to families if children aren't in school.

"Parents who have barely making living wage jobs will have to take off from work to accommodate kids during the strike process," said Robert McClain, a grandparent.

Currently, plans are being made to open up libraries to young students if a strike does occur. But community leaders are concerned about what will happen to older students if they are not getting an education.

"More carjackings, more auto theft, more crime," said Tyrone Terrill, of the African American Leadership Council. "We don't want that for our young people. They should be in school."

The community leaders believe the current average teacher salary in St. Paul is fair. They added that they would like to see more educators of color involved in the negotiations.

"We are not anti-teacher," Turner said. "We are anti-ineffective teacher, and we are pro-children."

The St. Paul teachers union says it hopes to have more information on where things stand by 6 p.m.

In the meantime, the St. Paul district emailed parents saying that if there is no agreement by 9 p.m., classes will be canceled Tuesday.

Cancelling classes would impact around 34,000 students in the district.

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