The St. Paul School board is asking teachers to stay at the bargaining table as they vote Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike.
More than half of the school board was endorsed by the union in a sweeping election just 15 months ago, and the union is now poised to authorize a strike for the first time since 1989, although there hasn't been a walkout since 1946.
It's a stunning circumstance given the union's efforts to remake the board little more than a year ago.
Teachers are calling for a cap on class sizes, student disciplinary reform and more support for English language learners and special education students. They say they also want more than a proposed 1 percent pay raise and they reject a mandatory 40-hour on-site work week.
School board chair Zuki Ellis urged the union to keep negotiating and questioned whether a disruptive strike would help solve the financial and educational challenges the district faces.
The St. Paul Federation of Teachers represents about 3,700 teachers, educational assistants, nurses, librarians and other staff. They've been bargaining since September and are now in mediation with the district.
The vote is set to run from 2:30 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Paul. The union's executive board will meet Wednesday night following the vote to decide whether to call for a strike. If they do call for a strike, there's a 10-day period before teachers could walk out, said union spokesperson Patrick Burke.