Portland, Ore. — A potential teacher strike in Portland Public Schools looms with a substantial gap between the district’s latest offer and the demands of the teachers’ union, amounting to $228 million.
The union is advocating for improved wages, reduced class sizes, and increased weekly preparation time for teachers.
On Wednesday, representatives from the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) and Portland Public Schools (PPS) engaged in their second meeting following a 30-day “cooling-off” period. Both parties believe that the other side needs to present a more favorable offer to advance negotiations.
PAT President Angela Bonilla stated, “The district needs to come to the table with real solutions, not just noes.”
Contract negotiations for teachers have persisted for several months, with educators seeking a 20% wage increase over the next three years and an additional two hours of weekly preparation time.
Regarding class sizes, PPS noted that the average elementary school class consists of 23 students, but some classes are significantly larger.
The teachers’ union is pressing for an extra two hours of weekly planning time, which would provide teachers with slightly over seven hours of planning time each week.
PPS contends that fulfilling the union’s demands would exceed their available budget. School district officials highlight a nearly $230 million gap between their offer and the union’s requests.
To secure the necessary funds, the union has suggested cutting administrative costs and tapping into reserves. However, Dr. Renard Adams, PPS’s Chief of Research, noted that the existing administrative costs amount to $60 million, and roughly half of the $105 million in reserves within the district’s general fund has already been allocated. The district aims to retain the remaining $50 million in reserves for potential emergencies.
In the event that the state had failed to pass a budget last summer due to a walkout by Republican state senators, PPS stated that they would have had to utilize their reserves. Adams stressed that maintaining the entire district’s operations costs more than $8 million monthly.
While the district asserts that the necessary funding is lacking, the negotiations have not seen significant progress. Bonilla remarked, “Not much has changed.”