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St. Paul teachers strike set for Feb. 13

By staff |
February 8, 2018
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St Paul, MN - The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) says that educators will strike beginning Feb. 13, if no settlement is reached in ongoing contract talks with the Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS).

“Our union’s executive board voted to set the Feb. 13 strike date,” said Erica Schatzlein, SPFT vice president and a teacher at Nokomis Montessori. “This is not an action we take lightly. As educators, we want to be in the classroom with our students. If leaders in Saint Paul Public Schools are unwilling to prioritize our students’ needs, teachers are going to stand up for our students.”

Schatzlein pointed to the district position on providing adequate services to students who are English Learners (EL) as an example of the SPPS’ unwillingness to address students’ needs. The union has called for more educators to work with EL students to bring the district into compliance with the Minnesota Department of Education.

Other unresolved issues at the bargaining table include wages and union proposals to lower class sizes, add staff to support students enrolled in special education programs and expand restorative practices.

The strike date announcement follows last week’s overwhelming vote by SPFT members to authorize a strike if a settlement has not been reached. Over 85% of SPFT members participating voted to strike. Members of all three of SPFT’s bargaining units will strike if an agreement is not reached.

Bargaining will continue through the end of the week between SPFT and SPPS with a state-appointed mediator. SPFT has also let the district know they are willing to continue meeting over the weekend.

Earlier this week, with the possibility of interruptions in the public school schedule looming, SPFT members began planning Safe Sites to serve students in the event schools are not available. The goal is to make sure that students have safe, warm, and appropriate alternatives if schools are closed.

Plans include identifying locations, arranging food for children at each site, arranging transportation, and assigning SPFT volunteers. In addition, subcommittees are putting together an array of activities for students and looking at how any medical issues will be addressed.