St. Paul teachers union awaiting results of strike vote

Thousands of educators in St. Paul gathered for the strike vote Thursday. (FOX 9)

Thousands of St. Paul educators voted Thursday on whether or not to authorize a strike. It comes after months of unsuccessful negotiations between the teachers union and the St. Paul Public Schools. 

Union leaders are tallying the votes. Results are expected either late Thursday night or Friday morning. If there are enough votes in favor of the strike, the union’s executive committee will discuss the issue and make the final decision. The union would then have to give the district a 10-day notice before walking out.

"Every year there have been cuts since I've been here, so I think there are fewer supports available," said Michelle Fyle, an occupational therapist at St. Paul Public Schools.

The question of the day for thousands of employees at St. Paul Public Schools is whether to strike or not to strike.

"Obviously I'm nervous,” said Fyle. “I don't want to go on strike. I don't want to walk out on the families that we work with, but I also believe that all of our families need more."

3,700 members of the St. Paul Federation of Educators are voting on whether to walk off the job over tense contract negotiations with the district. In addition to increased pay and benefits, the union wants mental health teams in every building, more staff who speak different languages and lighter workloads for special education teachers.

"We are making sure we have caseloads for our special education teachers, so they have more time to meet the needs of their students and not just spending all their time in paperwork and drowning in that," said Nick Faber, the president of St. Paul Federation of Educators.

The district says its offered $9.6 million in new spending over the next two years, but falling enrollment is costing the district millions in lost revenue every year.

"Falling enrollment is exactly the reason you need to listen to the staff who work with the students every day,” said Faber. “They know what our families want and what our families need and by following some of the things we've put on the table. We know we can retain our families in St. Paul.”

The question is whether these issues will be settled at the bargaining table or the picket line.

"Whatever happens tonight is up to our members,” said Beth Swanberg, a vocal music and theater teacher. “I'm just hoping we get more supports for our students in the future.”