Portland, Ore. – The union representing teachers in Portland Public Schools (PPS) has declared an impasse in contract negotiations, setting the stage for a potential strike if an agreement is not reached. The decision came after bargaining talks on Friday afternoon.

In a statement, the union expressed dissatisfaction with what they perceive as a lack of meaningful movement from the district on issues important to their members. PPS, on the other hand, stated that the union did not submit a counter proposal during the recent negotiations and expressed disappointment over the impasse declaration. Teachers have been working without a contract for several months.

If an agreement is not reached, a teacher strike could occur as early as the end of October. Despite nine months of bargaining, little progress has been made, leading to concerns among parents about the possibility of a strike.

Delaurore Kyly, a parent of two PPS students, expressed concern about the potential impact on students, stating, “We know at the end of the day the group that will be most affected are the students.”

Friday’s mediation session marked the third meeting between PPS and the Portland Association of Teachers, and it is currently the last one scheduled.

In the event of a strike, school closures would ensue, affecting sports, childcare, clubs, and support for students applying to colleges, including crucial tasks like obtaining recommendation letters.

Eric Happel, a parent of two students at Lincoln High School, voiced his concerns, particularly for his senior child who has already experienced a significant portion of high school through remote learning.

During the negotiations, PPS increased its offer for teacher wages. Initially offering 2.5% raises for each year of the three-year contract in January, PPS later proposed a 10.3% cumulative salary increase over the next three years, with new teachers receiving an initial 3.4% pay hike. The district claimed that these wages would make their teachers the highest paid in the metro area and among the highest statewide.

However, the teachers’ union argued that the offer does not keep up with inflation. A study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that on average, new Portland teachers spend 42% of their salary on a one-bedroom apartment, the second-highest nationwide after San Francisco.

The union’s counterproposal consists of an 8.5% salary increase in the first year of the contract, followed by 7% and 6% increases in the second and third years, respectively. This offer has remained unchanged since negotiations began in January.

PPS countered by expressing concerns about the cost of the raises and the additional jobs the union proposes the district should add, estimating expenses near $100 million.

Both sides have emphasized their desire to avoid a strike.

The next step in the process is a 30-day cooling-off period during which the teachers’ union could call for a vote. Following this period, teachers could strike after providing the district with a 10-day notice. Alternatively, negotiations could continue to avoid what would be the first strike in Portland Public Schools’ history.

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