PORTLAND – Teachers at Portland Public Schools voted to strike Wednesday night.
A spokesman for the Portland Association of Teachers told KGW the vote was nearly unanimous.
Teachers are required to give the district at least 10 working days notice before they could walk off the job. They voted to set the walkout date for Thursday, Feb. 20.
If the district’s teachers walk off the job, it would be the first time in Portland history.
“No teacher ever wants to go on strike, we want to be in classrooms with our students,” explained PAT president Gwen Sullivan. “But Portland teachers are united and resolved to stand up for our students’ learning conditions. It’s time to move this to a conclusion so that we can have a contract that is fair for teachers and good for students.”
Portland School Board Co-Chairs Pam Knowles and Greg Belisle said they were "very disappointed" that the PAT voted to authorize a strike.
They released a statement that said, in part: "We know that a strike would be extremely disruptive for students and families. Our goal is to reach an agreement that adds teachers to schools, adds school days, raises teacher pay and maintains strong benefits, and helps Portland keep and hire the best educators for our classrooms while keeping our spending in line with projected state funding."
The next mediation session with PPS is set for Sunday, Feb. 9. If a contract deal is reached, the walkout would be canceled.
Sullivan said the teachers feel the latest contract offer still does not address class size relief or support the students and schools who need it most. She said it also does not provide fair compensation and would force them to "teach to the test."
The district has roughly 2,900 teachers and 48,000 students.
In a letter to parents sent out before the strike vote, PPS Superintendent Carol Smith promised that the district was making preparations to keep classes going and that negotiations with teachers would continue.
“Our goal is to reach an agreement that adds teachers to schools, adds school days, raises teacher pay and maintains strong benefits,“ Smith said.
PPS has been notifying their contracted substitute teachers that work will be available if a strike occurs. The teachers union has complained that PPS is pressuring substitutes to cross the picket line.