MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Teachers for thousands of Minnesota students are deciding whether to walk off the job.
Members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals started to vote Monday on whether they should go on strike.
St. Paul teachers will do the same later this week. The result of the votes won't immediately lead to a strike, it just gives them the option to authorize one.
The last time the Minneapolis teacher's union voted to strike was 50 years ago.
At the time, retired teacher Jennifer Vaillancourt was 8 years old and handed out coffee outside the vote center. Now, after a 33-year career at the school district herself, she's helping union members cast their vote on authorizing a strike.
"I love the Minneapolis School District and I'm really concerned about where it is right now," she said.
More mental health resources, smaller class sizes, and increased pay are among the demands from the union.
"In addition to this legal process, we've been petitioning, rallying, marching on the governor's mansion, going to school board meetings, and we haven't seen the change we need from district leaders," Union President Greta Callahan said.
In an email to families, Minneapolis Public Schools acknowledged the uncertainty for families and laid out ramifications if there's a strike. They said classes would be canceled and projects, graduation dates, and summer programs may be impacted.
Theresa Stets has three children in the district. She supports the teachers and would like to see smaller class sizes.
"It's not working the way it is, we don't have enough staff at a lot of our schools, especially our educational support professionals," Stets said.
In St. Paul, the district said it's focused on reaching a fair, equitable, and sustainable agreement. Until then, the strike vote Thursday is looming over teachers like Mary White.
"No one wants to strike, but if it allows us to get a contract that supports the students' needs, as well as the educators'...it's what we have to do," White said.
If each union does approve a strike, it will notify their district and there'll be a 10-day cooling-off period.
Results of both votes are expected Thursday night.
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