Oregon: Around 45,000 Students Return To Classrooms After Month-Long Teacher Strike

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
3:23 PM – Monday, November 27, 2023

After more than three weeks without classes, the largest school district in Oregon said late on Sunday that it had struck a tentative agreement with its teachers union and that close to 45,000 students will begin attending classes again on Monday.


Teachers who have been protesting salaries, class sizes, and preparation time since November 1st must still cast their votes on the accord. The school board must also accept it, but the union decided that lessons could continue while those votes were taking place.

Students at Portland Public Schools (PPS) missed eleven days of classes prior to the district’s start of a week-long Thanksgiving break.

“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.

The teachers union claimed that in terms of classroom size, teacher pay, health, safety, and mental health resources for kids affected by the pandemic, the provisional agreement was a significant victory for both educators and pupils.

By adding days to the new year and removing one week from winter vacation, students will make up for lost school days.

“This contract is a watershed moment for Portland students, families, and educators,” Portland Teachers Association President Angela Bonilla said. “Educators have secured improvements on all our key issues… Educators walked picket lines alongside families, students, and allies, and because of that, our schools are getting the added investment they need.”

According to PPS, the agreement would provide teachers with a 13.8% cumulative cost-of-living raise over the following three years, and almost half of all teachers would get an additional 10.6% in yearly step increases. Additionally, beginning with the next school year, the agreement would boost classroom time for elementary and middle school students as well as teacher preparation time for these classes by 90 minutes each week.

The number of team members devoted to promoting the mental and emotional well-being of pupils would triple as well.

The last day of classes for students was October 31st, Halloween.

While many parents had supported the striking teachers, several expressed worries about pupils’ learning loss as the school closures continued, particularly in light of the lengthy closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the strike, online classes were not made available for students.

Teachers on Tuesday marched over a bridge and stopped rush-hour traffic for almost fifteen minutes as a result of the escalating tensions that persisted during the Thanksgiving holiday. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, one school board member even had posters affixed to his car, while another had vandalism on his rental property.

According to the Portland Association of Teachers, which advocates for over 4,000 educators, this was the district’s first teachers’ strike.

After its previous contract ended in June, the union and the district engaged in months of negotiations in order to decide on a new one.

Growing class numbers, a lack of preparation and support time in the classroom, and pay that has not kept up with inflation reportedly infuriated teachers. In the district, the starting basic pay is around $50,000 per year.

However, Portland Public Schools has consistently stated that it lacks the funds to comply with the union’s demands.

School district leaders said that the record $10.2 billion K–12 budget that Oregon lawmakers adopted in June was insufficient. To push for a resolution, a few state legislators called a press conference on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol earlier this month.

In a statement, the district said it would have to reduce spending in order to pay for the concessions made to the teachers’ union, and it asked voters to put further pressure on state legislators for increased financing for schools.

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