Three main sticking points stall Portland teacher contract talks

PORTLAND, Ore. -- They've been at this since April, and they're still going.

Early Thursday morning negotiators representing Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers met again, trying to finally hammer out a deal.

So what's still holding this up? Despite weeks of talks, both sides remain far apart on three main sticking points: Class sizes and teacher workloads, how to streamline a bulky hiring and firing processes, and whether to keep an early retirement benefit for older teachers.

On Thursday, the teacher's union told us they are digging in their heels when it comes to class sizes.

"Hearing that at Glenco, that their first-graders are in a class of 34, that's when they start to learn to read, so that's ridiculous," said Gwen Sullivan, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers.

The district, though, seems to be winning when it comes to hiring and firing teachers. The union said Thursday they are willing to make concessions there.

But it's anyone's guess who will come out on top for a perk for older teachers, which allows them to retire early without losing health coverage.

The district wants to get rid of that benefit, saying it's too expensive, but the union says it actually helps save money in the long-run.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith says negotiators thought they were getting close to an agreement; now they are disappointed at a widening gap.

The schools and Portland Association of Teachers have been talking about a new contract for nine months. The association represents 2,900 educators

The union has cleared its schedule for Friday and Saturday if an agreement can't be reached sooner.

The district says no further talks are scheduled.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.