Teacher contract talks continue in St. Paul, but union leaders are aiming to turn up the pressure on the state's second-largest district by setting a strike authorization vote for next Wednesday.
If votes are taken, and the rank-and-file gives its blessing, a walkout could occur after the St. Paul Federation of Teachers first gives the district at least 10 days' notice.
The move comes as the union and district plan to meet again in mediation on Thursday.
"Our members are incredibly disappointed that the school district has so far refused to work with us, but as educators, we remain committed to creating the schools St. Paul children deserve," Nick Faber, the union's president, said in a news release Wednesday.
In 2014, the union's executive board set a strike authorization vote, but the vote was called off after a new two-year deal was struck. That came at a time when the district was in a stronger position financially, and the federation achieved great success in rallying community support.
Since then, enrollment has been on the decline, and annual budgets have been trimmed.
Last fall, district negotiators announced a united front behind limiting contract increases to 1 percent of current salary costs. For teachers, that would amount to about $2.1 million per year in new spending.
The union, however, has pushed for a costlier package that would include 2.5 percent salary increases per year, plus the hiring of additional support staff and a lowering of class sizes.
The federation also wants the district to join it in pressuring corporations and tax-exempt institutions to contribute financially to the schools. The district has countered by saying it first wants the union's signature on an application to enter the state's Q Comp alternative pay program.
Wednesday's vote, if taken, would include not only teachers, but also educational assistants and school and community service professionals, which are part of the federation but negotiate separate deals.