Portland, Ore. — Portland Public Schools educators, represented by the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), will commence a strike on Wednesday, resulting in the cancellation of classes. The strike comes as a consequence of failed negotiations between the district and the teachers’ union to secure a contract agreement.
Samara Bockelman, a school counselor at Beaumont Middle School and a member of the PAT bargaining team, expressed disappointment, stating that despite over a year of negotiations, the district did not show the willingness to make the necessary investments for students’ and educators’ needs.
The school district confirmed the closure of schools starting Wednesday evening, informing families at 6:45 p.m. It’s anticipated that schools will remain closed on Thursday, with further updates to be provided the following morning.
Parents were notified by Portland Public Schools that in the event of a prolonged strike through Friday, report card distribution will be delayed as the quarter was originally scheduled to end on Thursday.
The district assured parents of daily updates by text and email at 7 p.m. regarding school operations for each subsequent day throughout the strike. Notably, there will be no update on Thursday evening, as schools were already slated for closure on Friday for a teacher planning and professional development day.
During a later news conference, Renard Adams, the chief of research, assessment, and accountability at PPS, urged the PAT bargaining team not to proceed with the strike, emphasizing the potential adverse effects on students, particularly in light of previous pandemic-related school closures.
Adams disclosed that the district had presented a modified contract offer mirroring elements of the PAT proposal for elementary educators in certain areas. However, there was no shift in compensation in the latest offer due to what the district perceived as significant prior adjustments.
The district expressed concerns regarding the financial implications of the union’s proposals on class size limits and planning time standards. Adams highlighted the necessity of hiring approximately 500 additional teachers at a time when student enrollment is declining, further complicating the district’s financial situation.
Notably, the district had dispatched the latest proposal to the union shortly before the news conference, indicating their willingness to continue negotiations into the late afternoon contingent upon the union’s response.
Given the shortage of substitutes, Portland Public Schools announced the closure of all 81 schools during the strike, affecting about 45,000 students and leading to the cancellation of most extracurricular activities except for varsity sports. This situation has prompted parents to seek alternative childcare options.
Key points of contention in the negotiations revolve around issues of compensation, class sizes, and planning time. The district emphasized limited progress in the final mediation session and reported a significant gap of over $220 million between the two parties’ latest contract proposals, although union officials have challenged the magnitude of this difference.
Despite the impending strike, the district expressed its commitment to remain at the bargaining table for as long as possible in efforts to prevent a complete shutdown on Wednesday. A last-minute agreement would prompt swift communication to parents, according to the district.