[Friday, November 3, 2023]
Members of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) say their wages aren’t enough to live in the area they serve. Portland Public Schools (PPS) administrators say they don’t have the money to meet the union’s demands. State elected officials say they can’t give Portland more money when districts all over the state are facing similar contract negotiations with their teachers. Parents, with kids out of school once again, say it’s a big mess.
With PPS and the PAT still hundreds of millions of dollars away from reaching common ground, the PAT went on strike, for the first time ever, on November 1. Picketers with signs marched up and down SW Capitol Hwy in the Hillsdale business district on Wednesday and Thursday and are scheduled to continue today. In attendance were teachers, counselors, substitute teachers, parents, and students of all ages. Cars honked Thursday in support as members of the PAT from Rieke, Robert Gray and Ida B. Wells lined the busy street.
Educators and supporters picketed in Hillsdale on Thursday morning.
Classes were canceled on Thursday. Friday is a previously planned teacher planning day, with no school for students. PPS is providing grab and go meals for free for all kids, ages 1-18 and all current PPS students. Meals are available for pick up at Ida B. Wells on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm during the strike.
Southwest Portland Martial Arts/Crossfit Hillsdale is offering kids camps, with some spots still available as of this writing.
Bargaining resumes today, but no one knows how long the strike could last. One teacher on the picket line said he thinks the strike might continue into December, with the district delaying until after Thanksgiving while claiming the teachers don’t want to come back to work. If the strike goes into December, PAT members will lose their health benefits, possibly undermining their bargaining resolve. The same teacher sees the district’s generous reserves fund as a solution.
A substitute teacher also marching on Thursday who works in classrooms all over the district said he sees the reality of the teachers’ complaints about class sizes and discipline. The district hasn’t been serious about negotiating, he said, and needs to listen to teachers and make a legitimate offer.
Meanwhile, Ida B. Wells is hosting the first round in the playoffs for the state football title tonight at 7pm. The Wells Guardians went undefeated in the Portland Interscholastic League this year and will play against the Nelson Hawks from Happy Valley.
Wells Athletic Director Mike Nolan said the game will go on tonight, but that the strike comes at a tough time for student athletes. Besides tonight’s playoff game, training has begun for winter sports with the first contests scheduled for late November. Many coaches at Wells are not part of the PAT, but they, and students also, will need to weigh support for the strike against potentially losing a season of competition.
Also at risk is the fall student theater production, which is scheduled to open next week on November 9.
How will negotiations between PAT and PPS end? Let us know what you think.