Portland, Ore. — Classes remain canceled for Thursday, marking the 10th day without instruction as the teachers’ strike in Portland Public Schools enters its third week. Portland Public Schools (PPS) revealed on Wednesday that due to the prolonged strike, teachers will be ineligible for health insurance in December.
According to Our News Partner KGW, PPS stated that teachers will not meet the eligibility criteria for insurance in December because, starting Thursday, they will have worked less than half of the contracted days for November. Consequently, teachers will be required to apply for COBRA insurance, a situation causing increased stress among educators.
Camila Arze, a teacher at McDaniel High School, expressed her concerns, stating, “I was expecting to not have to deal with that right now.” Arze, a mother of three, including a 4-year-old who recently underwent brain surgery, emphasized the significance of the benefits, calling it a “big stress.”
Julia Kirkpatrick, an English teacher at Grant High School, shared similar anxieties, mentioning she is “feeling scared.” Kirkpatrick, who recently had a baby and manages Type 1 diabetes, sees the district’s decision to link health care access to bargaining as a matter of life or death.
Despite the requirement for teachers to use COBRA insurance in December, the Oregon Education Association (OEA), the statewide teachers union, will cover the entire cost. Portland Public Schools estimates that the OEA will spend approximately $5.1 million on healthcare coverage in December.
While the coverage addresses financial concerns, teachers worry about potential disruptions as educators switch between their usual coverage and COBRA. PPS did not address these insurance concerns during a Wednesday press conference. Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero mentioned a tentative agreement on 10 small issues and presented a settlement package to the union, currently under review.