PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The first day of school was canceled for the Evergreen School District on Wednesday as educators became the second district to join the picket line this week.
Educators with the Camas School District have been on strike since Monday, and negotiations continue for both districts as teachers fight for better pay, smaller class sizes, and more resources.
The Camas School District and its education association began its bargaining at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, though the district says what they put forward on Monday is their best and final offer.
Meanwhile, Evergreen negotiations have continued throughout Wednesday after the district published details of what they’re offering educators Tuesday night.
As teachers picket in front of York Elementary, a mother named Patricia Poppe has taken off work to take care of her two kids – one who was supposed to start school, and another who has been in the district’s special education program for eight years.
“It’s disappointing because I feel like the district is letting the teachers down,” Poppe said. “One period is dedicated to the special education class, and he has two classes where he has to have an aide with him for the whole period, because he has the hardest time with math and writing.”
The Evergreen Education Association wants to lower the ratio for the number of paraprofessionals, or special education assistants, in classrooms to provide more support to special needs students as they are integrated into the general classrooms.
Michael Bowersox, a special education teacher for Evergreen schools, said he and his fellow educators have been forced into a difficult situation.
“There are lots of students who need,” he said. “It’s hard to then have to explain to teachers and students that their level of need is not needy enough, and that is an awful position to be put in.”
Camas educators are hoping for smaller class sizes for younger students, too. They say the district’s proposal of 22 students per classroom is higher than state guidelines.
Both Camas and Evergreen share a particular sticking point related to how cost of living adjustments are calculated. The education associations are advocating for the use of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – a measure you often hear tied to inflation. Meanwhile, the districts want a different calculation that Washington state uses for more rural areas, known as the Implicit Price Deflator (IPD).
This year, the CPI is 8.9%, and the IPD is 3.7%.
Dr. John Anzalone, the superintendent of the Camas School District said, “In order to keep our district financially solvent, we need to go with the lower rate. It just makes sense to me.”
Bowersox disagrees. He said district employees who are not education association members also use the Consumer Price Index.
“What the district is asking for is essentially the ability to pick and choose whichever index is going to be cheaper for them,” he said.
When KOIN 6 reached out to the Evergreen School District, officials said they could not provide an interview. They did, however, issue a statement.
“The goal is to reach an agreement that gets our children back into the classroom as soon as possible and provides them with the long-term support they need to have a successful educational experience,” they said.
Teachers in the Battle Ground School District are also fighting for a new contract but did not vote to strike. Rather, they’re working without a contract. The district and its education association did not meet Wednesday for its first day of school but plan to return to negotiations on Thursday.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.