Last Friday, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero warned parents that teachers could strike as soon as October.
One of the issues at stake in the contract bargaining between PPS and the teachers’ union is the number of minutes teachers get to plan each week.
The Portland Association of Teachers says its members are nearly at the bottom of the heap of metro-area school districts when it comes to paid planning time. In their most recent contract—which expired in June—they were allotted 320 planning minutes per week at the elementary level. Only the Reynolds School District in Fairview gets fewer, at 300.
The district’s current proposal is to bump Portland teachers up to 360 minutes per week that they can use at their discretion for tasks like grading homework, writing lessons and tests, and making photocopies. It’s also offered to add a day to the contract year of teacher planning time.
“What we hear from our teachers is that they spend time outside of work planning, and we want to pay them for that,” says Sharon Reese, the school district’s chief human resources officer.
Beaverton teachers are sitting pretty at the top of the list, with a whopping 675 minutes. That’s more than 11 hours a week of paid planning time.
According to Reese, however, comparing Beaverton’s and Portland’s allotments of teacher planning time is not quite apples to apples. Beaverton counts administrator-led time, including meetings, in the 675 minutes whereas Portland counts only teacher-led time.
Portland teachers have asked for 440 planning minutes.
“They tell us things like, ‘It’s not possible. We can’t do that,’” says PAT president Angela Bonilla, “when the reality is that other districts can do it, but for some reason the largest and most well-funded district can’t figure it out.”
Superintendent Guerrero warned PPS parents in a Sept. 8 email they should start preparing for a strike by teachers as early as the fourth week of October. A teachers’ strike in Camas ended Sept. 7 and one in Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver, Wash., ended Sept. 11.