Negotiations continued through Monday evening as the clock ticked down to a strike deadline in what would be the first teachers’ strike at Portland Public Schools. While they seemed to find agreement on some issues, others are still up in the air.
On Monday, teachers picked up their signs and megaphones, ready to hit the picket line come Wednesday and as mediation continued, Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers remained at odds.
“We believe the money is there, we believe it’s possible, we believe the management of how they’re choosing to distribute those funds in their budget is problematic,” Jacque Dixon, vice president of the Portland Association of Teachers, said. “I think we have a fundamental disagreement about those numbers and $200 million is very different from what our bargaining team is looking at and we don’t actually believe it’s a $200 million difference.”
Alisha Chavez Downing is an elementary special education teacher and says she’s ready to strike for the conditions the union is fighting for.
“I’ve been an educator for nine years and I’ve only seen things get progressively worse for my students,” Chavez Downing said. “I’m excited to see that language in our collective bargaining agreement because it’s what’s best for our students and best for our educators.”
Special education is one of the areas in which the district says they’ve been able to find some common ground as the union works on a collective bargaining agreement. However, other topics teachers brought up — like increased planning time and higher pay — are not settled.
“We’re still over $228 million apart in our proposals,” Dr. Renard Adams, PPS Chief of Research Assessment and Accountability, said. “As Governor Kotek indicated today, it would be irresponsible for PPS to commit to an agreement that creates a huge fiscal cliff.”
The district says PAT’s bargaining team won’t respond to a proposal made last week.
“First, we’ve received notice that PAT’s bargaining team would not respond to the proposal that we made last Wednesday. I want to repeat that. It’s not just that they won’t respond today, they will not respond at all. This is incredibly disappointing with so much on the line,” Dr. Adams said. “Second, we received a request from the PAT to meet outside of the PPS bargaining team on a proposal related to community schools. While we share the association’s interest in community schools, we have to ask, why is this the request they make 48 hours before a looming strike with so many huge issues and unresolved things at the bargaining table.”
It’s a statement the Portland Association of Teachers was quick to respond to.
“I think at this point it just seems like a game PPS is playing intentionally to act like we’re not showing up or we’re not responding to proposals,” Dixon said.
KOIN 6 asked the district if the state were to step in and give more funding to them, would it help in some of the negotiations when it comes to money, they said anything would help to get them closer to the model Oregon uses as an ideal quality education.
“I believe having the quality education model would greatly help. The difference between what we received this year and the quality QEM is vast, as you know, it’s a billion dollars,” Dr. Adams said.
“As far as fully funding the quality education model, that’s one thing that PPS and PAT agree on is we would like for the quality education model to be fully funded,” Dixon added.
There is another mediation set for Tuesday and so far, there’s no hard end, so negotiations could go well into the night as they work to make a deal and avoid a strike.