A possible strike that has been looming for teachers in Portland has been averted. An agreement between the school district and teachers’ union negotiators was announced via email to all 2,900 members of the Portland Association of Teachers.
If the strike would have taken place, it would have been the first strike for Oregon’s largest school district in history and the closest the district’s teachers have ever come to stopping work. As reported previously, teachers were upset with workload requirements and other issues like salary and fringe benefits, the length of the school year, and performance pay.
After 10 months of negotiations, the deal came after a nearly 24-hour negotiation session. The agreement details were not released because union members must be informed first. The contract will be voted on by teachers, then the school board.
The settlement keeps classes in session on Thursday, the scheduled start of a walkout. District officials had originally planned to close schools for nearly 48,000 students through Monday as the union’s members walked the picket lines. Although school will not be canceled, district officials told parents they would release classes two-and-a-half hours early on Wednesday as called for in strike preparations. Classes will resume on a normal schedule Thursday.
According to Nicole Dungka at The Oregonian, board members were informed of the contract detail, and praised the agreement and the bargaining teams for their efforts. Board Member Bobbie Regain expressed relief, and Board Member Matt Morton said the “contract represented compromise,” saying, “This is a contract that will give us flexibility for our schools, stability to teachers and better learning opportunities for our students.”
The district had made preparations to hire replacement teachers after teachers had approved the strike on February 5th. Pressure was mounting on both sides to come to an agreement as the strike deadline loomed. Both teams met with a state mediator to come to an agreement, working well into the night and the following morning.
At the news of an agreement was released, parents across the city were breathing sighs of relief. Mary Haugh Rubick expressed happiness over the agreement and said she hoped it was good for teachers and students.
“We were coming in early this morning to help our teacher,” Haugh Rubick said, “And we were planning on walking the picket line on Thursday for the teachers.”
Teachers expressed relief as well, and were happy to be able to unpack their belongings.
“Relief that we don’t have to stand on a picket line, relief that the continuum of treatment for my special education kids isn’t interrupted, relief that I have really cool kids and I’d have missed them,” itinerant teacher Steven Orndorff said of the news.