Portland teachers walked the picket lines forcing school closures Wednesday, leaving thousands of families of students scrambling for arrangements.
Portland Public Schools closed the doors of 81 schools this week after no agreement was reached between the district and the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT).
“It’s official: We are on strike to ensure the district meets our demands so that every Portland student can attend a great public school,” PAT posted on Tuesday.
The union’s demands included a 21.5% pay increase over three years, more than 7 hours a week of designated planning time, smaller class sizes and building repairs.
The district, which says it cannot afford to meet the enormous financial demands of the union, presented its final offer before the strike began Tuesday, but was turned down.
“We were told to expect a proposal from the district this afternoon and we had fairly low expectations for this,” PAT’s bargaining team said. “And unfortunately, the district’s proposal didn’t even live up to our low expectations.”
The union claims the district offered “no movement” on several of their essential demands, which include addressing the cost of living, reasonable class sizes, mental health support, student discipline, environmental safety, and special education.
However, the district maintains the union’s proposal isn’t financially feasible.
“We understand we have significant disagreements on critical issues,” said Renard Adams, a district bargaining team member. “We can only bridge these and reach agreement through dialogue, cooperation and compromise, and an acknowledgment that we do not have the resources to cover their proposals.”
The union’s demands would require more than $277 million in structural budget cuts in the next three years, while the district’s final offer was $45 million, according to OPB.org.
Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek urged both sides to find a solution.
“I encourage both sides to find a resolution that delivers a fair contract for educators, prioritizes more dollars going to the classroom, and keeps students in school,” Kotek wrote.
Almost 50,000 tudents, meanwhile, are stuck without classroom or online instruction. The district is scheduled to meet with the union and a state mediator on Friday.