Portland teachers vote to strike, district looking for replacements

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Fill-ins for striking Portland teachers could come from outside the district, even from around the state.

Christine Miles with Portland Public Schools says the district pulls names from a master list of certified teachers.

"The more back-ups we have, the better" says Miles.

The district has a plan to bring in substitutes if teachers follow through on their plan to hit the picket lines Feb. 20.

Miles says they'll have enough people.

The district started sending emails to potential substitutes last week.

Last night Portland teachers met and voted almost unanimously to strike.

Teacher Association President Gwen Sullivan said the meeting started out friendly and energetic.

"People who don't see each other much getting to see each other, and then it got serious," she said. "It was in a sense a bittersweet sort of mood. There was definitely an excitement, but with reservation."

One wall of the teachers association office was stacked with sticks and signs Thursday ready for teachers to take to the picket lines.

Teachers can't go on strike for at least 10 calendar days after the district receives an official strike notice from them.

Teachers sent that letter this morning.

Portland has never seen a teachers strike.

In 2003 teachers authorized a strike, but never actually did it.

Bill Wilson, a science teacher and contract negotiator says it's a different situation this time.

Wilson says the last time the main issue was a huge gap in the budget.

This time it's more about teacher work load and class size.

And Wilson says there's more tension between teachers and the school board.

"We've seen an aggressive approach from the get-go. We've been at this since April," says Wilson.

The district maintains it is doing it's part to help overcrowding and workload, hiring more than 80 teachers with budget surplus money.

Both sides say they'd like to settle this before the strike deadline.

A mediator will be at their next meeting on Sunday, Feb. 9.