Northeast Portland

Could Portland's teachers go on strike? They're headed down that road

Could Portland's teachers go on strike? They're headed down that road »Play Video
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PORTLAND, Ore. - After seven months of negotiations, contract talks between Portland Public Schools and its teachers are at an impasse, the school district announced Wednesday.

"We hope impasse will spur both sides to address these issues and reach a settlement in a timely manner," said Sean Murray, chief human resources officer for Portland Public Schools. "Contract talks that go on for months or years disrupt schools and hurt students."

Both sides are trying to agree on such things as pay, benefits, workload and job protections. According to the school district, out of 27 main points in the contract there is only agreement on five.

"My workload right now is incredible and I'm hoping that's not going to increase," said special education teacher Elaine Nussbaum.

So what happens next? Will teachers go on strike? That's certainly a possibility.

Once impasse is reached, the two sides have seven days to submit final contract offers and cost estimates to a mediator, who will make both offers public. There will then be a 30-day cooling off period during which the sides may continue bargaining. If there is no agreement after 30 days, the school board can implement conditions of its final offer and teachers may choose to strike.

The teachers' union, Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), is taking a hard stance against the school district in all of this.

"The School Board's actions are dangerous and reckless," said Gwen Sullivan, PAT president. "The board is sending a clear message that they would rather force a strike and shut the schools' doors on our students than work together with teachers. As we enter the holiday season, the board's gift to Portland students and their families is a huge lump of coal."

"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, bargaining chair for PAT and a science teacher at Grant High School. "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."

This has happened in the past and a strike has been averted. But teachers say there is no guarantee they won't take that final step.

More from both sides:

KATU Reporter Lincoln Graves contributed to this report.