Portland school board gives superintendent emergency strike powers

Portland school board gives superintendent emergency strike powers »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - More than half-a-dozen Portland Police officers at Portland's school board meeting Wednesday night showed the rising tension as a threatened Portland teachers strike draws near.

Teachers have set a strike deadline for Thursday, February 20th.

But not many people in the audience, showing there's also little left to talk about.

Parents supporting teachers and the board both spoke to the board before an update on negotiations.

“This board needs to be responsible and negotiate a fair contract, in good faith before a strike occurs and causes further disruption among our community,” parent Kathy Garris told the board.

"I urge the board to hold fast to the principles of streamlined transfer and assignment processes,” countered district supporter Margi Brown.

As the district grinds toward a possible teachers strike, a new state revenue projection shows Portland schools will get an extra $4.6 million next year because of rising property tax values in the metro area.

The teachers union president contends that should lead to a settlement.

"Today's revenue forecast makes it clear that they do not need to keep saving for a rainy day, when it's raining now and they can more than afford to make things better in our classrooms,” said Portland Association of Teachers president Gwen Sullivan.

The district says the revenue forecast is no guarantee.

“We're thrilled to get the extra money,” said school district spokeswoman Christine Miles. “But that money is based on revenue forecast. So it's not a solid foundation.”

The board voted unanimously to give school superintendent Carole Smith emergency, temporary power to prepare for a strike. Those powers include spending money and even consolidating or closing schools temporarily.

Board members said the irony of a teachers strike would be that the board already has plans to add teachers and reduce class sizes in the next budget year.

“It's inconceivable to me that we are at this place in time right now, that we're facing a strike,” said board member Bobbi Regan. “It makes no sense for our kids.”

The district and teachers are scheduled to meet Friday at 9:30 a.m. The district expects a new proposal from the teachers union.

The district also set up a hotline for parents to ask questions and receive updates on the negotiations. You can call 503-916-3260. Operators will begin answering at 7:30 a.m., but you may leave a voicemail if you call earlier.