Portland teachers’ union to strike this week unless demands are met, including big pay raises

Portland teachers are expected to strike this week, leaving 45,000 students out of classrooms, unless the school district agrees to a costly list of demands it calls “unfeasible.”

Portland Public…

Portland teachers are expected to strike this week, leaving 45,000 students out of classrooms, unless the school district agrees to a costly list of demands it calls “unfeasible.”

Portland Public Schools is expected to close 81 schools if the 4,000 teachers represented by the Portland Association of Teachers refuse to return to the classroom on Wednesday, according to KGW8.  

Negotiations between the district and the teachers’ union have been ongoing since contracts expired in June.

The key points of contention revolve around teacher salaries, planning time, class sizes, working conditions and more. 

The union is pushing for an 8.5% increase in pay for the first year, followed by 7% and 6% increases in the subsequent two years, respectively.  

The district, however, has countered with a proposal of 4.5% for the first year and 3% for the following two years, arguing its offer aligns with the financial constraints imposed by the state’s resource allocation. 

“We would like to give our teachers the world,” said Renard Adams, chief of research, assessment and accountability for the district. “But we live within a fixed resource allocation that comes from the state, and what we’re talking about is a fundamental underfunding of the quality education model … We think our offer is fair given the constraints of our resources.” 

Under the district’s offer, average teacher salaries would end up around $87,000 per year, with 40% of teachers making more than $100,000 per year, Adams said, according to KGW8.  

The teachers are also asking for 440 minutes of designated planning time a week for teachers K-12. Elementary teachers currently receive 320 minutes, while middle and high school teachers receive an entire class period each day.  

The district has agreed to give elementary teachers 400 minutes weekly, but won’t agree to give middle or high school teachers more planning time. District officials believe it would result in students losing additional designated teaching time, according to KGW8.  

The teachers’ union is also asking for smaller class sizes, but the district says the requests are unfeasible due to space constraints and limited financial resources. The district estimates it would cost $200 million to hire the additional 500 teachers needed to meet their demand.  

Additionally, teachers are demanding not to have to work in extreme temperatures or in the case of a water leak or a power outage. They also ask that “basic cleanness standards” are met, which the district says is already the case. 

The union issued a strike notice on Oct. 19, indicating that a strike could commence if an agreement isn’t reached by October 31.  

In response, the district has informed parents and guardians that schools will remain closed in the event of a strike, but students are encouraged to use self-directed digital resources for continued learning. 

The district also stated it would “ensure any student who needs a device has access to one.”  

However, some teachers are encouraging families to refuse the computer the district is offering students as an “easy way to show support for teachers, students and the Portland Association of Teachers community.”  

Families are asking how long schools could be closed, but the district warned them it does not know. 

“Finally, many families have asked if a strike will extend our school year,” the district wrote. “Unfortunately, we are not able to know yet. We will need to consider the length of a strike against state requirements regarding student instruction time, inclement weather days, and other factors. Once negotiations are complete and a date has been selected to reopen schools, we will provide you with additional information.”