Teachers in Portland, Oregon are striking today because the district didn’t acquiesce to their expensive demands such as pay raises, smaller classes, and more planning time.
Over a thousand Portland educators and supporters protested in the city on Saturday to pressure Portland Public Schools to accept their terms.
The Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), which represents over 4,000 teachers, wants to increase salaries by 8.5% this year, 5.5% next year, and 5% for the third year, according to KGW News. Members have complained about high housing costs in the city and hope better compensation can help them afford to live there. The district has made it clear that it’s not in the budget. It is offering a 4.5% salary increase this year, 3% next year, and 3% in the third year.
The union also wants to cap class sizes at 25. In the city’s elementary schools, the average class size is 23 students, Portland Public Schools told KGW.
PAT also wants an extra day for teachers to create lesson plans, as well as to convert 30 hours of teaching time into planning time, KATU 2 ABC News reported.
The district is already stretching with its current three-year proposal, which would add about $144 million for teacher salaries and benefits, KATU said. PAT’s proposal is asking the district to invest an additional $372 million, more than double what it’s prepared to do.
“The negotiations have been hard,” Angela Bonilla, president of PAT, told the outlet.
But they will be harder on Portland’s children.
Portland is one of many cities whose children are struggling to recover from Covid school shutdowns, which the unions blessed. In March 2020, PAT said school closures were “not a matter of if, but when.”
Portland students in grade levels 3-11 showed unfortunate academic performance in 2023.
In math, no grade level had more than 56% of students meet or exceed state standards, according to test score data. Eleventh graders, many nearing the college transition, had an average pass rate of 27% in math. In science, no grade level had more than 44% of students meet or exceed state standards. Eleventh graders again fared the worst in the subject, with a 39% pass rate.
Another indeterminate school closure driven by the teachers’ unions will add insult to injury. Kids will suffer more disruption to their learning and extracurriculars, which allow them to showcase their talents and become more well-rounded. For instance, Portland students will likely miss their choral and theater performances during the strike.
It’s not the first time the Portland teachers’ union has put students last. In September, the union warned it would strike if the district refused to provide subsidized housing for low-income public school kids and lobby for expanded rent control, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
PAT has proven that it will again neglect the needs of students to serve its members. It also asks parents to choose teachers over their children. Last week, PAT members from Grout Elementary School in Southeast Portland sent parents a letter urging them to refuse learning technology that would tide kids over during the strike.
“PPS is organizing chromebooks to be distributed to students for use during a strike,” the letter read. “One easy way to show support for our teachers, students, and the PAT community is to send a letter refusing to accept these resources during the strike.”
The letter directed parents to a link to email the district’s bargaining team on behalf of the union.