St. Paul teachers and school support staff members said Monday they intend to strike on March 11 unless a deal can be reached in talks that resume Friday.

"This is not a decision our union takes lightly," Leah VanDassor, president of the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE), said outside the state Bureau of Mediation. "We know from past experience the impact a strike can have on our students and their families, as well as our educators."

The move marks the fourth time in as many bargaining cycles that union members authorized a strike and the executive board then set a walkout date. Teachers went on strike four years ago for a deal reached just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two sides narrowly averted strikes in 2018 and 2022.

Patricia Pratt-Cook, executive chief of human resources for the district, said in a statement Monday that district leaders were disappointed with the union's decision to file a strike notice.

"We want to assure the community that the St. Paul Public Schools bargaining team is working tirelessly to continue contract talks and reach an agreement that values our educators while ensuring the financial stability of our district over the long term," Pratt-Cook said.

When talks moved to mediation, the district said the union's requests totaled about $112 million and that the school system budgeted just $12.4 million for a new contract.

Initially, the SPFE pitched pay raises of $7,500 in 2023-24 and 7.5% in 2024-25, but it revised the request Friday, said VanDassor, who declined to give specifics. The district has offered 2% to 3% in the first year — with its lowest-paid teachers getting the 3% — and 1.75% in the second.

The union also has been pushing for greater staffing on mental health teams, reduced caseloads for special education teachers and lower health insurance costs.

Starting pay for a St. Paul teacher with a bachelor's degree is about $49,000, according to the district's salary schedule. A teacher with a Ph.D. and 20 years of experience earns about $102,000. The district said recently that nearly half of its teachers are paid more than $90,000.

The two sides met last Friday for a fifth mediation session spanning 12 hours.

Later, the district reported that the SPFE had presented a new financial package that it believed signaled a willingness to reach an agreement.

"[But] at this point, the package exceeds what SPPS has budgeted for these contracts and would increase the projected budget shortfall for next year by millions of dollars, as well as compromise the financial health and stability of the district into the future," the district said.

The state's second-largest district is facing a shortfall of about $107 million in 2024-25.