Teachers in This State's Largest City Hit the Picket Line

Educators in Portland, Oregon, are striking over salary, class sizes, lack of resources
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 2, 2023 9:50 AM CDT
Teachers in This State's Largest City Hit the Picket Line
Teachers and their supporters hold signs, chant, and rally the crowd on the first day of a teachers strike in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday. The Portland Association of Teachers said its first-ever strike in the district stemmed from concerns over large class sizes, salaries that haven't kept up with...   (AP Photo/Claire Rush)

Teachers in Portland, Oregon, walked off the job on Wednesday for the first day of a strike that shuttered schools for some 45,000 students in Oregon's largest city. Concerns over large class sizes, salaries that haven't kept up with inflation, and a lack of resources prompted the strike, one of the latest signs of a growing organized-labor movement in the US that's seen thousands of workers in various sectors take to the picket lines this year. "Our kids deserve more than teachers that are absolutely exhausted and at the end of their ropes," said Sarah Trapido, a special education teacher at Kellogg Middle School who was picketing Wednesday morning. The Portland Association of Teachers, which represents more than 4,000 educators, said it was the first-ever teachers strike in the school district.

Schools are closed, and there's no classroom or online instruction during the strike. Guerrero said the district is scheduled to meet with the union and a state mediator on Friday. The union has been bargaining with the district for months for a new contract after its previous one expired in June. Portland Public Schools said it doesn't have the money to meet the union's demands. Oregon lawmakers in June approved a record $10.2 billion K-12 budget for the next two years, but school district representatives said that wasn't enough. "Funding has not kept pace with the needs of our students, nor our educators," Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero told reporters on Wednesday. "We strive to offer a compensation that attracts and retains talent. But unlike a private organization, we don't have record profits we can tap into."

The union has proposed a roughly 20% salary increase over three years; the district has proposed around half that. The union's demands also include more daily and weekly planning time for teachers to prepare lessons, as well as capping class sizes at thresholds that are lower than what the district has proposed in some cases. Per the district, the union's proposals would create hundreds of millions of dollars in added spending and lead to potential staffing cuts. Teachers held signs, chanted, and rallied the crowd outside of Kellogg Middle School on Wednesday morning as cars passing by honked in support. "I've seen many people quit within their first five years," said Mike Bauer, a union representative and special ed teacher at Cleveland High School who's been teaching in Portland for nearly two decades. "At the end of the day, we need teachers." Much more here.

(More teachers strike stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.