Portland Public Schools just announced it's gotten a second unexpected influx of cash from property tax revenues—a development that could either ease tensions with teachers or send them howling.
"This morning the state’s legislative revenue office announced higher than forecast local property tax revenues for the 2013-2015 biennium," reads a release from the district. "They increased their estimate for Portland Public Schools’ state school fund revenue for next year by $4.65 million."
This is either very good news or very bad news for those hoping a teachers strike called for Feb. 20 doesn't come to pass. That will depend, probably, on how the district elects to use the money.
PPS already infuriated its teachers' union, the Portland Association of Teachers, when it announced an unexpected infusion of roughly $20 million in January. The union wants administrators to invest significantly more in its contract, hiring 175 new teachers, increasing salaries and holding steady on benefits. The district has said it will agree to 88 news teachers in the contract, but perhaps hire more as part of the budgeting process. Administrators say they don't want to write expenditures into a contract that they may not be able to account for when the next agreement comes up.
PAT President Gwen Sullivan hasn't returned a call for comment, but expect renewed calls for stepped up investments in the union contract.
Meanwhile, PPS says it's too early to say what the influx means. In the release, Superintendent Carole Smith said the expected new money "allows us to increase our investment in teachers and staff in our schools.” But how that "investment" is made is what's going to be most important to the union.
"I think having just got that information this morning, the superintendent is very pleased and every bit of funding helps," says PPS spokeswoman Christine Miles. "But we also have to look at the longterm. We still need to figure out how this will play in our budget."
After mediation the last two days, the district and PAT are scheduled to next meet tomorrow.