After meeting Tuesday night, Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers remained at odds, meaning that all Portland schools will be closed on Wednesday.
“They haven’t been budging,” PAT member Tina Lamanna said. “I think this is necessary to get our students what they need.”
Parents say they’re torn between supporting teachers and wanting their kids to have consistent schooling – especially with no strike end date in sight.
One parent, Katherine Kaylegian Starkey, said students at Markham Elementary left with homework packets on Tuesday with “all kinds of math and writing and stuff.”
“I’m really concerned about how long it’s going to go and what they’re going to lose education-wise from that,” she said.
The two sides were unable to come to a deal after 20 bargaining sessions, according to PAT.
“Portland educators were hopeful we could reach an agreement with the district that meets the needs of students and educators, so we could be in school with our students Wednesday morning,” said Samara Bockelman, school counselor at Beaumont Middle School and PAT bargaining team member. “Unfortunately, after more than 12 months of bargaining, district leaders weren’t willing to make the investments necessary to ensure every Portland student has the resources they need to thrive.”
It is the first teacher strike in the history of Portland Public Schools. It is unclear how long the strike will last, but a PPS spokesperson said that the district expects schools to be closed Thursday as well. Teachers will be unpaid during the strike.
“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,” Gov. Tina Kotek said in a statement.
The district says they offered a new deal to the union on Tuesday that included special education and planning time that was requested for elementary teachers. However, they say other requests, like a 23% salary increase and planning time for middle and high schools, goes well beyond their budget.
Dr. Renard Adams with PPS said they need to focus on compromise.
“We know our proposal on the table right now will require budget cuts this year and future years and we know that every dollar we increase will require more cuts,” Adams said.
PAT says there will be a rally at Roosevelt High School at noon on Wednesday.
PPS says they sent a letter to the teacher’s association on Tuesday, saying in part that “A PAT strike tomorrow will have a detrimental effect on our students and schools. It will exacerbate the negative impacts of the previous pandemic school closures, including learning loss, concerns about our children’s mental health, and lack of access to trusted adults. As educators, we know that this is not what is best for our students.”
PAT responded with a letter of their own, which stated in part “If what we saw in your package was an actual engagement on the issues that matter to our members and community, we could have potentially arrived at a resolution and avoided a work action. This proposal makes it loud and clear: PPS does not want to engage in a bargaining process, one that began in January 2023.”
Parents say they’re divided but ultimately want what’s best for their kids.
“I’m torn, and I really hope it comes out for the best,” Starkey said. “I hope the teachers get what they need, and I hope our kids can go back to school soon.”
This is a developing story.