ST PAUL, Minn. - The urgency of contract negotiations has been turned up significantly after members of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) voted Wednesday to authorize a strike.

The union says nearly two-thirds of members voted for a work stoppage due to a lack of progress at the negotiating table with officials from the St. Paul Public Schools. Work on a new contract has been going on for months, with little movement. SPFT board members plan to file their intent to strike notice Thursday.

“Nobody wants to go on strike, and we will do everything in our power to prevent one. However, we are going to fight for what our students need and not apologize for working to create the schools Saint Paul Children Deserve,” said Nick Faber, President of SPFT.

Union officials say the district has offered teachers a small raise, but maintain the money to pay for it would be diverted from programs that help support students. The union also accuses district officials of moving to increase class sizes in 29 elementary schools.

“I voted yes to strike because our kids need better supports for English Learners, mental health, school nurses, special education and restorative practices,” said Krisi Herman Hill, a teacher at Washington Technology Magnet. “We can and must do better.”

The St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) responded to the strike vote Thursday, maintaining that there is still time to break the stalemate. Mediation sessions are currently scheduled for Friday, February 2 and Wednesday, February 7, and there is a 10-day negotiating window before a strike can be called.

"I am disappointed byy the vote and concerned for all our families who will feel the impact first," commented SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard. "Still, I remain hopeful we can move forward on additional agreements to avoid disruptions to our students, staff and families."

SPFT says teachers last went on strike in 1946.