by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - David Child, a member of the Portland Teachers Association bargaining team, held a sign outside the Schnitzer Concert Hall Wednesday evening during a rally to support teachers as a possible strike looms. The teachers union voted to authorize a strike, which could begin Feb. 20.Portland's teachers raised their voices Wednesday evening in favor of a strike against Portland Public Schools.

Members of the Portland Association of Teachers authorized a strike by a voice vote during a gathering at Arlene Schnitzer Hall. Union officials issued a statement after the vote saying teachers would notify the state Employment Relations Board and PPS officials that a strike could begin on Thursday, Feb. 20.

“Portland teachers are united and resolved to stand up for our students’ learning conditions,” Association President Gwen Sullivan said in a statement. “It’s time to move this to a conclusion so that we can have a contract that is fair for teachers and good for students.”

The teachers union and the district have been negotiating a contract for nearly a year. PPS negotiators declared an impasse on Nov. 20. Since then, both sides have meet in mediation to discuss key issues such as work load, salary, class size and early retirement incentives.

Another mediation session is planned for Sunday, Feb. 9.

Before Wednesday evening's vote, parents, community members and students rallied outside the concert hall to support the teachers union.

"We want teachers to know we have their back," says Emily Crum, a Portland resident and a teacher in Reynolds School District. "It's so important for teachers to know how the community and parents support them."

Across the district, Portland Student Union members had planned walkouts at Jefferson, Lincoln, Cleveland, and Grant high schools on Wednesday at lunchtime. Lincoln High students planned to walk to the Arlene Schnitzer Hall.

The rally was co-sponsored by the Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign and the Portland Student Union.

KOIN News 6 contributed to this news story.

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