Portland Avoids Teachers Strike

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Big news for Portland:  the city's district and teachers union reached a conceptual agreement just two days before their set deadline, avoiding what would have been the first teachers' strike in Portland Public School history. We're looking forward to reviewing the contract details once they are public, but in the meantime, here is a quick recap of the issues for those who may have not been following the events.

The back story

Portland Public Schools (PPS) and Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) have been negotiating their collective bargaining agreement, which expired on June 30, 2013, since last March. Tensions have been rising since November, when PPS and PAT declared an impasse; and just last week, PAT overwhelmingly voted to strike on February 20th if an agreement was not reached by then.

The major issues: Salaries and class size

 There were several issues being negotiated, including seniority in layoffs and hiring and school year length, but according to the media coverage, the major sticking points of debate were salary increases and class size.

On the salary front, both PAT and PPS have made concessions since November:

After we receive what PPS and PAT finally agreed to, we'll do some analysis comparing Portland's salary scale to the other districts in our Teacher Contract Database.

In regards to class size, the policy is a permissive- not mandatory- subject of negotiation in Oregon. In Portland's previous collective bargaining agreement, the only mention of class size was that teacher workloads must be generally comparable to what they were in 1997-98. Up until last week, it was clear that PPS wanted to preserve this same language and hire 88 additional teachers to alleviate current class size levels. PAT held steadfast in its stance to significantly reduce current student-teacher ratios by arguing that PPS hire over 170 new teachers.

Looking ahead

Once the documents from today's conceptual agreement between PAT and PPS are available, be sure to check back for a deeper analysis of these issues and more. And keep following us for potentially more strike-related news as we follow events in St. Paul, Minnesota, where teachers vote on February 24th to decide whether or not they will move forward with a strike.