Portland Teachers’ Union and School District Sign a Deal

Students will return to classrooms Monday after being out almost a month.

BACK TO SCHOOL: A student organizer at a Portland Association of Teachers rally. (Brian Brose)

The first-ever teachers’ strike in Portland is almost over. The school district and the teachers’ union announced they came to a tentative agreement today. It’s not a done deal quite yet: Teachers still need to vote to ratify their new contract and the School Board will need to approve it at their meeting Tuesday.

Still, students will return to school tomorrow, Nov. 27, with a two-hour late start. The acrimonious Portland Association of Teachers strike has dragged on since Nov. 1, canceling 11 days of instruction.

“We are relieved to have our students returning to school and know that being out of school for the last three weeks—missing classmates, teachers, and learning—has been hard for everyone,” said Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero in an email to families Sunday afternoon. “We thank our students, families, and community for your patience and perseverance through these protracted negotiations.”

Throughout bargaining, the two sides worked through issues primarily related to wages, planning time and class size. The union negotiated about a 13.8% cumulative cost-of-living increase over the next three years that will catapult more than half of Portland Public Schools teachers over the $100,000 annual salary mark by the end of the contract.

Educators will also enjoy a major boost in planning time, from 320 minutes a week at the elementary level up to 410 minutes. The union backed down from its demand for hard caps on class sizes and ended up with soft caps with overage pay for teachers for each student their class exceeds the recommended number.

“This contract is a watershed moment for Portland students, families and educators,” says PAT president Angela Bonilla. “Educators walked picket lines alongside families, students and allies—and because of that, our schools are getting the added investment they need.”

Under the agreement, the plan for making up the 11 days of missed school is to hold classes through Dec. 22, add a day each in January, February and April, plus June 12-14.

The Portland Association of Teachers has about 3,500 members. The strike kept 45,000 students home from the district’s 81 schools, causing major child care headaches for families across the city and raising questions about the potential damage of an unexpected, prolonged school closure while students are still climbing out of a pandemic-sized hole of learning loss.

“This is a transformative deal that will improve the lives of students in Portland and have far-reaching positive effects for our students across the rest of the state,” says Reed Scott-Schwalbach, president of the Oregon Education Association.

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