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Schools prep for strike

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland school board has unanimously declared a state of emergency, a move that allows the schools superintendent to spend money on preparations for a strike, including hiring replacement teachers.

The Oregonian reports (http://is.gd/69AmRM ) that board co-chairman Greg Belisle said Wednesday that both the district and teachers continue working toward a contract but the district must prepare for a strike too.

Teachers union members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a walkout on Feb. 20 if no agreement is reached before then.

Superintendent Carole Smith says both sides are working hard to reach a negotiated agreement. The two sides plan to meet Thursday without a state mediator.

Teachers union leader Gwen Sullivan says she’s encouraged by recent news of additional property tax revenue that could boost funding for schools.

Unresolved contract issues include workload, salary increases and early retirement incentives.

Portland has the state’s largest school district with 48,000 students and 2,900 teachers.

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