Portland, Ore. — On Monday afternoon, Portland Public Schools officials announced that the district’s bargaining team has submitted a counter-proposal to the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) for review and consideration. This follows extensive bargaining sessions, with optimism from both sides about nearing a resolution.
Earlier the same day, PAT accused the school board of rejecting a tentative agreement proposed to end the teachers’ strike. However, during a news conference, Portland Public Schools officials disputed this claim, stating that while both parties were “very close” to a deal, no tentative agreement had been established.
According to PAT officials, a recommended settlement was agreed upon after 24 hours of bargaining and presented to the school board on Monday morning. The board unanimously rejected it, leading to frustration expressed by a fifth-grade teacher, Melissa Ortiz, who claimed the board’s actions were preventing an immediate return to school for students.
PAT President Angela Bonilla criticized PPS for what she perceived as a lack of leadership, calling the scuttled deal an “unprecedented failure of leadership.”
Contrary to PAT’s assertions, PPS officials asserted during the morning news conference that there was no tentative agreement, only a “conceptual proposal.” While there were areas of agreement, fundamental issues, particularly regarding student privacy, still needed resolution.
The core obstacle, according to Board of Education Director Julia Brim-Edwards, involved the formation of a class-size committee. The district raised concerns about parents on the committee having access to private student information, suggesting that such decisions should be made at the school level by teachers, principals, and administrators.
Three main concerns were discussed by board members when the proposal was presented. The first was student privacy, the second focused on a re-entry plan for students, and the third pertained to the cost of the proposal. The proposed cost-of-living adjustments for teachers included 6.25% in the first year, 4% in the second year, and 3% in the third year, potentially leading to significant budgetary implications for the district.
Brim-Edwards emphasized that although some outstanding issues remained, a deal was deemed very close. She refrained from specifying a timetable but expressed the intention to continue bargaining immediately after the news conference.
PPS teachers have been on strike for three weeks due to an ongoing contract dispute involving pay, class sizes, and planning time. As of November 27, after the Thanksgiving holiday break, the earliest potential return to class for students has been indicated.
Last week, the union adjusted its proposal, removing class-size caps and replacing them with a substantial increase in overage pay for teachers exceeding specific thresholds. However, the district deemed this alternative too costly. Brim-Edwards clarified that the increase in overage pay was not included in Monday’s proposal, reverting to the current status.
The situation remains dynamic, with both parties expressing optimism about nearing a resolution but acknowledging lingering challenges in the bargaining process.