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Portland teachers move one step closer to possible strike

Students walk away from a school bus along a sidewalk.
Caden Perry
Students at Sitton Elementary School in Portland walk from the bus to the front entrance of school for their first day in the 2023-24 academic year. Members of the Portland Public School Board rode buses and walked with students to welcome them to their first day of school.

Portland Public Schools has gotten one step closer to the first teachers strike in its history.

The Portland Association of Teachers Friday evening declared an impasse in contract negotiations with Oregon’s largest K-12 district.

“After 219 days of bargaining prior to mediation and three frustrating and largely fruitless mediated bargaining sessions, we have ceased to see any meaningful movement from district management on issues most important to our membership,” union leadership wrote in an announcement to educators Friday.

“Over the next week, your Bargaining Team will be preparing a final offer and we expect district management will be doing the same,” they wrote. “It seems quite unlikely that management’s final offer will be even remotely acceptable.”

Compensation increases and caps on class sizes remain among a list of items left unsettled.

The union has not yet voted to authorize a strike. PAT President Angela Bonilla said that vote would take place much closer to a possible strike date, which could take place in late October or early November.

PAT leadership said the exact timing of their next steps remains in flux. However, during the impasse, union officials will continue to bargain with district management. There are scheduled meetings with the mediator on Oct. 2, 11 and 17.

“Today was disappointing — for us but, most importantly, for our students and families,” PPS bargaining officials wrote in their latest update to the community. “The Portland Association of Teachers offered no counter proposals — and yet declared impasse.

“Despite our frustration, we continue to keep our students at the center and will strive for compromise,” they wrote. “Our students do not deserve this inaction in the face of potential school closures.”

Portland has never had a teachers’ strike. Teachers authorized one in 2014 but reached a deal shortly before it was set to start. The Portland Federation of School Professionals, which represents 1,350 classified employees in the district, recently reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the district.

Across the state, more than 70 districts will have contract negotiations this school year, according to the Oregon Education Association. No Oregon districts are currently on strike.
Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Natalie Pate