Reynolds teachers vote to go on strike

Reynolds teachers vote to go on strike »Play Video
Reynolds Education Association President Joyce Rosenau hugs a teacher following the strike authorization vote on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Teachers in the Reynolds School District voted Tuesday afternoon to authorize a strike.

Teachers say they have been working without a contract since last June and that enough is enough. Their collective voice was heard loud and clear when 94 percent of those who showed up to vote said 'yes' to a strike.

The school district said last week they offered their teachers $3 million in raises over the next three years but teachers instead want close to $13 million. They also believe their current contract is too vague.

"We really want things to change," said teacher Kim Stoffregen. "We want to have what's best for our kids and we don't feel like we're getting that."

"We feel like this has been dragging on too long," said Joyce Rosenau, President of the Reynolds Education Association. "We have been bargaining for over a year now and progress is not being made. And we feel there needs to be a sense of urgency. We want this settled."

District officials say they are worried that they will exhaust all their resources if they try to make the teachers happy.

"The Reynolds School District does have reserves in the bank," district spokesperson Andrea Watson said. "We are not on fumes but if we take the association's proposal, we will be on fumes. We will be bankrupt in 2013."

The earliest teachers could strike is May 21. The district plans to announce in the next few days what it will do if teachers do walk off the job. Meanwhile, contract talks will continue. The next session is scheduled for Thursday.

Other local districts have also struggled with tough contract negotiations.

A few weeks ago, teachers in the Gresham-Barlow School District were ready to strike. After a long week of negotiations, a tentative agreement was reached and the strike was averted.

In Beaverton, the school board there just approved a new teacher contract that cuts five school days and 344 positions for the next school year. And although the deal does keep certain pay increases for teachers over the next few years, the Beaverton School District still has to close a $37 million budget gap.

And in the Tigard-Tualatin School District, a proposal to balance the budget is calling for job cuts. The district is looking at a $3.4 million hole and a proposed budget would cut 27 teaching and staff jobs. Some administrative jobs would also get cut from the district office. District leaders will be presenting their proposal Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Twality Middle School.