Two Sides To A Story: Portland Public Schools’ Labor Negotiations

At the last general meeting, the SNA hosted representatives from Portland Public Schools and from the Portland Association of Teachers.  We asked both parties to submit articles to the SNA Newsletter for those who were not in attendance.   While the SNA board did not choose to take a position on this issue, it is an important issue that affects our community.

School Board Member Speaks on Teacher Contract

By Robb Cowie, Department of Community Involvement and Community Affairs, Portland Public Schools

The Sunnyside Neighborhood Association board asked Portland Public Schools (PPS) board member Tom Koehler to speak at the October SNA meeting about the school district’s current negotiations with the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT). Tom told the board that PPS’s goal is to reach an agreement with PAT that is in the best interests of students and fair and supportive of teachers.

PPS and PAT have been negotiating a new contract for teachers for more than six months. Now a state mediator has joined the talks.

Portland’s teacher contract is important to families and neighbors because it sets the rules for how schools operate. In the current talks, the school board’s priorities are to make it easier for PPS schools to hire and retain the best teachers for our students.

PPS has also offered to add three instructional days to the school year for students, and to increase or maintain planning time for all teachers. In addition, the school district is offering salary increases each year over the proposed 4-year contract. Tom expressed optimism that a deal could be reached with a negotiated settlement.

Tom appreciated the opportunity to share the school board’s views with Sunnyside neighbors and is happy to keep the neighborhood association up to date on school issues.

Portland School Board Out of Touch with What’s Happening in our Schools

By Portland Association of Teachers

Portland teachers have been in contract negotiations with the Portland school district since last spring. In September, the school board unilaterally called for mediation. At the first mediation session on October 14, teachers offered a reduction in their salary proposal and other items saving the district millions of dollars. The board did not offer any new proposal or respond in any substantive way to the teachers’ proposal.

Teachers have made it clear from the beginning of this contract bargain that their priority isn’t salary. In fact, Superintendent Carol Smith acknowledged on OPB on September 15 that teachers and the school board are not far apart on salary.

The school board thinks “getting aggressive” with teachers is the answer to the problems facing our schools. The board and the superintendent are creating a false crisis that will hurt kids. They have the money but they are using it to pay more than $1 million a year to high-priced consultants and attorneys for advice during the contract bargain.

The school board wants to eliminate the only protection teachers and students have against adding more work to the day and more students to classrooms. This would result in eliminating any caps on student loads in high schools. Teachers want to maintain the current provisions that result in reasonable workload so that teachers can teach each student.

The board’s actions don’t represent Portland values. They’re following the lead of Yvonne Deckard, their $15,000-a-month taxpayer-funded consultant and bullying teachers, forcing teachers down the road to accepting an unacceptable or strike. For more information, visit the Portland Association of Teachers website at http://www.pdxteachers.org or the community website at http://www.teachersandparentstogether.com.

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