Why I am Voting Yes

We asked a number of our members why the are supporting a strike vote this Wednesday. Here is what they said. (We’ll continue to update this as more people respond.) 


“I am voting to strike on Wednesday because I support SPFT’s proposal to increase English Learner (EL) staffing, with transparency and equity.

I am on an exemplary EL team in an amazing school. Although our staffing has decreased, we meet our children’s needs. However, my former students say they struggle without EL support, even though we prepared them well. Students have not received their legally-required service due to lack of appropriate staffing. Our ELs can go to college and thrive. My private college professor friend, though, said that our best and brightest often struggle in college writing, and asked why our students haven’t received adequate ELL services. Why, indeed? We’ve been asking the district to address this for years, but so far, they haven’t.

Equity for our multilingual students, who are 34% of SPPS, can’t wait. I am standing up for fully supported, college and career ready bilingual students.”

Stephanie DeFrance Schmidt, Phalen Lake Elementary 


“I am an SPFT member and I am voting to strike on Wednesday because I support SPPS English Learners (ELs). As an English as a Second Language teacher, I see firsthand the challenges that our newest students face in the classroom and in the community. Many of our ELs are students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE) and have been subjected to severe trauma.

The proposals set forth by the SPFT bargaining team, specifically #1 Collaborating to Seek Full Funding for Racially Equitable Schools,  #2 Education for the Whole Child, and #7 High Quality Professional Development, will directly benefit some of our most vulnerable learners in SPPS, our SLFIE.

Class size caps must be maintained and adhered to in order that all students have adequate access to licensed teachers. Further, Educational Assistants play an important role in the relationships that develop among ELs, their families and school staff. They are extremely valuable team members and must be compensated fairly, utilized effectively in classrooms, and elevated professionally. We must all stand strong with our students and their families.”

Sam DiVita, LEAP High School


I am voting to strike on Wednesday because our students deserve better!  Our students deserve class size caps. Our students deserve nurses, social workers, counselors and media specialists. Our students deserve art, music, physical education and science specialists.

Our students deserve supports in the classroom. We are bargaining for the students and we are going to strike for the students!

I am a special education teacher. Our proposals around special education services

  • provide appropriate support staff in all special education settings,
  • create special education classrooms that meet the needs of students and their Individual Education Plans, and
  • promotes the benefits of co-teaching, resource rooms and a return to student centered services.

We have asked the district to work with us, but so far, they have refused. Teachers are being asked to fund these initiatives. The district has not allocated any funds for the students!

Our kids cannot wait.  Our kids deserve more.”

Joan Duncanson, Bridgeview


“I will be voting yes for a strike vote on Wednesday because I believe we need to educate the whole child. I work with three to five year olds with special needs, and if we were able to provide these students with the mental health and special education support they need, we could provide them with the education they deserve in a safe and nurturing school environment…

Our students can’t wait. We are risking their safety and the continuity of teaching staff. When the teachers do not feel safe, valued, and appreciated, it takes away from the education of our students.”

Shannon Erickson, The Heights Community School. 


“I am going to vote YES on the teacher’s strike vote this Wednesday. Strikes are scary and disruptive for both students and staff, so I don’t take this lightly. At the last mediation session, the district offered us a 1% wage increase, but stated that any other agreement we might make for any of our class size or student support proposals would need to come out of this wage increase. To me, this is a false choice. We need to do better for our kids and teachers in St Paul. Our kids need better supports with EL, mental health, school nurses, special education and restorative practices. Our teachers need a wage increase that is going to keep up with skyrocketing health care costs. Kids and teachers both need smaller class sizes. We can and must do better.”

Kristi Herman Hill, Washington Technology


“I am voting to strike on Wednesday because teachers need to be able to provide a strong, safe learning environment for our students. We need class size caps for our neediest students, mental health supports, and expanded restorative practices. Many of our students are struggling and needs more support – not less. We have asked the district to work with us, but so far, they have refused. We have to stand up for our students!”

Julie Hutcheson Downwind, American Indian Magnet School


“I am voting to strike on Wednesday because we need more mental health supports for our students.  Students are coming to us with more and more needs and they deserve trained professionals to support them.  The district is not willing to discuss this with us. Our students cannot wait.”

Shannon Jax, PAR Consultant Teacher


“I am voting YES for the strike vote tomorrow for SO MANY reasons. This is one:

I believe our students are best supported when we have school counselors in our buildings at an appropriate ratio. In my 21 years in SPPS most as a kindergarten teacher, I have experienced the range from having NO school counselor, to having a school counselor for about 450 students. When we fully staff our schools with school counselors, they are able to provide all students with supports needed. They are able to teach important lessons to the whole class (think good touch/bad touch or stranger danger), provide small group support for students who need extra help (think about students whose families are going through divorce, or kids who need extra practice with making friends) and support in individual high need situations (think child abuse reports, trauma, etc).

When we don’t fully staff our schools with counselors, students are often left with needs unmet which directly impacts their ability to focus on learning. We often say Maslow’s before Bloom’s. As much as I and other teachers love our students, we don’t have the specific skills our school counselors are trained in, nor do we have the ability to provide those services while teaching our other students.”

– Sarah Johnson, Four Seasons Elementary


“I will be voting to strike on Wednesday because class size matters. I work in a setting where often times, my class is a child’s first school experience. These students need more direct attention to learn, as they all have new and various learning abilities and styles. Placing 26 students in a classroom with only the Kindergarten teacher is not addressing the needs of all students. The students are unable to get the direct instruction, the care, comfort, and feeling of safety that they need at this very young, vulnerable, and impressionable age. We have asked the district to work with us, but so far, they have refused. I’m voting to strike to stand up for our students.”

Joni Joy, The Heights Community School


I am voting to strike on Wednesday because the district is not interested in continuing the commitments they made in past contracts to limit class size at all schools and to increase vital supports that restorative my students need. This includes access to mental health supports, nurses, librarians, practices, and adequate staffing to meet the needs of EL and special education students.

In my school, more students are showing up with mental health needs that require supports we are not staffed to provide. Their needs not only affect them, but also impact their classmates and the learning environment in the classroom. Our kids can’t wait any longer.

Laurel Kuhner Berker, American Indian Magnet School


“I am voting to strike on Wednesday because we need more support for special education students. This matters to me because the students I have in my classroom need to receive all the special supports they are entitled to every single day they are in school.

We have asked the district to work with us, but so far, they have refused. Our students cannot wait!”

Jessica Lance, Mississippi Creative Arts


“This Wednesday, after I teach a full day and hold an evening parent meeting to share ways families can help their children academically at home, I will also be voting YES on our strike vote with my teacher’s union, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers. I never imagined being in this position, but I can’t stand by in the face of the district’s inequitable proposal to expand class sizes. At schools deemed to be under 95% of “capacity,” the district wants to eliminate previously-negotiated class size limits. While it’s unclear what exactly defines “under capacity,” the district did release a list of the 29 schools that currently fall into this category. Which schools are they? Unsurprisingly, it’s schools with more English learners, students of color, students living in poverty, and students who are highly mobile. These are also the children whose families may be the least able to complain about this injustice.

As a first-grade teacher who works at one of those higher-poverty schools, this proposal infuriates me. I know the difference a smaller class can make, where I can squeeze in an extra reading group, more calls home and longer home visits, just a little more time for each kid, and the families at my school know it too. The effect of this proposal is an increase in the racial and economic disparities that already exist in Saint Paul. I will not accept this for my students and I will be standing up for them in our strike vote.”

Annaka Larson, Wellstone Elementary


“I am voting to strike on Wednesday because I believe that our students deserve adequate mental health supports. I work in a middle school with a high percentage of students living in situations of ongoing trauma and poverty. They need support to develop coping strategies that are positive and don’t further complicate their lives.”

Marcie Stein, Farnsworth Upper 


Our social workers, counselors, and other mental health support staff are stretched to their limit. In our proposals, we have asked the district to work with us to address this need. So far, they have refused.

“I am voting to strike on Wednesday because my students deserve classes small enough to allow them all to learn to their fullest potential.  I teach many students who receive EL services in addition to my English class. When the class is oversized, it is impossible for me to reach each student adequately during the class time.  This is devastating because every student deserves to get the best education possible.

The district would like to end our class size-limit language.  We have asked them to work with us on this, but to date, they have refused. For me, this is the most important issue facing us right now.  When classes are not packed, students are more likely to develop relationships with each other and their teacher.  They are also much more likely to receive the attention they deserve daily to do their very best work.

Our kids cannot wait. They need smaller classes now.”

Leah VanDassor, Highland Park Middle School