PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the second week of the district’s first teachers strike is set to continue Wednesday, teachers took their message directly to the Portland Public Schools Board of Education.
On Tuesday, teachers and supporters rallied outside district headquarters before making their pleas to the board inside.
“Everyone is doing a great job representing everyone’s priorities and working toward a settlement,” School Board Chair Gary Hollands said at the beginning of the meeting.
Teachers urged the board to consider their needs and push the district toward an agreement.
“We’re asking them to come to the table to support us because we both want the same thing and the same thing is what’s best for the students and to be back in our classrooms,” teacher Alicia Chavez Downing said. “Showing the school board that we’re serious and we want to be back in the classroom is important.”
Some PPS parents say even with legislators stepping in recently to call out the district, they worry the budget isn’t there and other solutions may be needed.
“I don’t think it’s productive for legislators to get involved because we’ve seen the state budget documents and we’re a billion dollars short. State legislators know this. They gave $10.3 billion and yet we know there’s another billion that’s needed,” parent Logan Kleier said, proposing solutions like possible new taxes on the ballot for Portland voters to cover salaries. “I take the district at their word that they’re spending it basically wisely. I don’t think there’s enough money for all the needs our teachers have, salary increases, instructional time. It just doesn’t exist, in my opinion.”
Students have even made their pleas to the board.
“Students have been used as bargaining chips by both sides and I want to say, it’s disappointing that I even have to use the term sides when we should be united as a district serving the students,” PPS board student representative Frankie Silverstein said.
“Teachers want to be at work and students need to be in school. It’s important that both sides work together to solve this problem,” Grant High School senior Hannah Rainge said.
Meanwhile, the Portland Association of Teachers says school board members joined them for bargaining on Tuesday to discuss what settlement would look like, and feel progress was made.
PAT President Angela Bolillo said she felt they “finally had a breakthrough at the table.”
“I’d also like to give a kudos to the board members who have been listening to our legislators, our community, our parents, our students and our educators’ call to attend bargaining,” Bolillo said.
The strike is set to continue this week with no classes on Wednesday.
According to Gov. Tina Kotek’s office, a mediator will join bargaining on Wednesday after the previous mediator was not available. The state’s chief financial officer is also set to work with the PAT and PPS on reviewing financial info to make sure they’re working from the same set of numbers.
PPS says their bargaining team will use Wednesday to refine counter proposals and will share them electronically with the mediator and PAT to keep the process moving. If a contract is not settled Wednesday, they will return for in-person mediation on Thursday.