St. Paul teachers voted Thursday to ratify a new two-year contract that was the product of a late flurry of talks aimed at averting a strike.
The executive board of the city’s Federation of Teachers, which had recommended rank-and-file approval, will certify the results in March, when the school board will also act on the vote.
Three weeks ago, 85 percent of teachers who took part in a strike authorization vote said that they were prepared to walk out on Feb. 13.
The deal was reached early on Feb. 12 after seven straight days of mediation.
For the financially strapped district, cost was a major concern. According to estimates, the union was pushing proposals for new spending totaling $159 million over two years, while the district was aiming to limit increased spending under the contract to $2.07 million per year.
The resulting agreement fell within the district’s parameters. But the two sides also were able to free up enough money through other compromises to allow for the hiring of 30 new teachers of English language learners and 23 people to work with special-education students.
Teachers also will receive 1 percent raises retroactive to Jan. 6, as well as increases tied to years served and education levels attained — commonly known as “steps and lanes.” Those increases now cost the district about $8.5 million per year.
The 1 percent raises were priced at $2.07 million annually.
But because the two sides agreed to make the pay retroactive to Jan. 6, and not last July 1, the district saved about $1 million and will, in turn, make larger contributions to teacher health care plans, said Laurin Cathey, the district’s human resources director.
The district now faces a $17.2 million deficit for 2018-19.
“We are proud of the gains we made for our English Learners and students enrolled in special education in this round of negotiations,” Nick Faber, federation president, said in a prepared statement. “We know we still have more work to do to lower class sizes and ensure that our schools have the mental health supports our students need.”