PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland teachers are preparing to go on strike in just five days, despite a bargaining session Thursday.
The Portland school district and the teachers union say they’ve made progress on special education at the bargaining table. But when it comes to pay and class sizes, they are still far apart.
“Our proposal on the table right now will require budget cuts in this year and the next three years,” stated Portland Public Schools Administrator Renard Adams. “And every dollar above that that we give is a dollar that doesn’t go to student services and a dollar we don’t have available to negotiate with our other bargaining units.”
“I think it’s going to come down to how much the district is willing to change their budget in order to focus priorities into schools,” added Angela Bonilla, President of the Portland Association of Teachers. “Because the reality is we’re still asking for mental health supports, we’re still asking for class sizes to be reasonable.”
If there’s a strike, school buildings will be closed. The district is trying to find space where nonprofits that usually provide before and aftercare on-site will be able to operate with extended hours.
“What I can share is that we are working with [Portland] Parks and Rec to find some spaces where our nonprofits, who use our school buildings, can operate and students still receive some of those supports,” Adams added.
Both sides say they are willing to go as long as it takes at the mediation sessions next Monday. But the union says if comes down to Halloween, the night before a possible strike, they could decide the strike is on before midnight.
“We are going to discuss on Tuesday what a cut-off time looks like,” said Bonilla. “Because there is no sense of us bargaining into the wee hours on Tuesday if there is no chance of it leading to a settlement.”
The teachers union plans to hold a rally Saturday with a march to the waterfront.