Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero warned Portland Public Schools parents in an email Friday that they should start preparing for a teachers’ strike.
“We also want to be transparent and provide you with ample time to plan for a possible school closure because we know how difficult a disruption would be on students and families,” Guerrero wrote. “If we cannot reach an agreement over the coming weeks, it could result in a strike later this fall, leading to school closures as early as the fourth week of October.”
If schools close due to a Portland Association of Teachers strike, the district would only provide “limited essential supports,” such as meals, Guerrero added. The email was previously reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Guerrero’s email linked to a new page about the bargaining process on the school district’s website that painted a similarly dire picture. A strike would “put significant pressure on families—especially those with elementary-age children” and would further pandemic-related learning losses, the district says. Athletics, child care services, clubs and college-application support would all be disrupted.
Talk of the strike and the union’s ongoing contract negotiations with the school district buzzed through a PAT picnic at Laurelhurst Park yesterday afternoon. A group of about 300 educators and families grilled, socialized and tossed balls with their children at the lake-side event decorated with the banner “Portland Teachers Working Without a Contract.”
The union and the school district are bargaining over issues that compensation, weekly planning time, class-size caps, and classroom temperatures. The talks are occurring at a time of increased labor walkouts across the country, as unions use their leverage amid workforce shortages and persistent inflation.
PAT president Angela Bonilla took umbrage at how the district’s new bargaining website presents the prospect of a strike.
“They’re escalating in this really gross way when we are literally trying to bring public schools to the level they need to be to serve our community,” Bonilla says. “It’s a bummer to be painted as these crazy teachers who just want the world.”
Bonilla says the union is starting to build coalitions with parent-teacher associations to help support families in the event of a strike.
Sept. 15 is the last day of mediation, at which point both sides can declare an impasse and present their last, best and final offers. After a 30-day cooling-off period, the district could either impose the contract or the union could go on strike.
“We don’t have to have a strike,” Bonilla says. “We have to have quality public education. We have to have great public schools for every single kid. And the district can make that happen if they decide that’s a priority.”