PORTLAND -- After months of trying to work out a deal, the board of Portland Public Schools said Wednesday it has reached an impasse with the teachers association and a strike is possible.
The two sides are now on a relatively short timeline and $200 million apart. If they don’t reach a deal in 37 days, teachers could walk off the job. This would most likely happen Jan. 6 as students and teachers return from winter break.
Superintendent Carole Smith said that the district believes it’s offering competitive health care and will pay for additional instruction days. “We’re not talking about furlough days, were not talking about cuts. We actually are able to offer competitive salaries,” she said Wednesday.
The district and the Portland Association of Teachers have been in talks since last April. The district revealed details of its latest offer Wednesday, which included 6 to 17 percent raises over three years. The district also proposed longer school days and three extra class days added to the school schedule.
PAT released a statement Wednesday afternoon which complained that the school board’s proposal would remove caps controlling class sizes, possibly slash teachers' preparation time and "force teachers to teach to the test."
“The School Board has not only walked away from Portland’s teachers. They’re abandoning our students by refusing to address the very real challenges our schools are facing,” said Bill Wilson, Grant High science teacher and PAT bargaining chair. “Portland teachers want to find solutions to our class size crisis and the growing inequity in our neighborhood schools. The district wants to push us to strike.”
Meantime, PPS officials said they are lining up replacement teachers in case of a strike.
The district also declared an impasse on the union during their last contract talks in 2010, but that did not end in a strike.
“Back in 2010 when we went to impasse, it actually was the tool that got us to a settlement,” Smith said. “This time we have way more favorable economic conditions."