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Could 'extra' state money help PPS avert a strike?

One bit of good news dropped from the sky Wednesday morning: the Legislature is forecasting higher local property tax revenue for the next biennium, which means more money for public schools.

The state Legislative Revenue Office estimates an additional $4.65 million for Portland Public Schools in state school fund revenue for next year. The unexpected funds could be the answer to resolving the contract dispute with the Portland Association of Teachers before the planned strike on Feb. 20.

No doubt it will be the topic of discussion in coming days.

“We are thrilled to learn about an additional $4.65 million in state funding to benefit our students,” Superintendent Carole Smith said Wednesday. “This allows us to increase our investment in teachers and staff in our schools.”

Smith will deliver her 2014-15 budget proposal March 17.

PAT President Gwen Sullivan highlighted a statement released by Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek’s office on Wednesday: “We received welcome news after the forecast that Oregon has an additional $98 million in local revenue for our schools, which should allow some school districts to do even more to reduce class sizes.”

Sullivan says the new revenue forecast gives a clear direction to the board: "(It) makes it clear that they do not need to keep saving for a rainy day, when it’s raining now and they can more than afford to make things better in our classrooms.”

With eight days left to avert a strike, Sullivan says, "the school board has run out of excuses. It’s time to settle a contract that is fair for teachers and good for students. They cannot keep claiming that they can’t afford to reduce class size, when clearly they can. They cannot keep claiming that they can’t afford to settle this contract, when clearly they can.”