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The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

Teachers’ union votes to support strike, shares reasoning for action


Portland Public Schools (PPS) and the teacher’s union, the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), have been negotiating a new contract for educators since January and they have been unable to come to agreement, which may result in educators going to the picket lines.

This week, educators in the PAT voted to authorize a strike: 98.9 percent voted in support; 7 percent did not vote.

The union has notified the district that they intend to strike, according to a communication written to families by PPS. If a strike is to occur, it would begin on Nov. 1 and schools would be closed until PPS and PAT can agree on a contract.

After the announcement of the voting results, PPS released a statement reading, “We want to reach a fair, sustainable settlement, and we will stay at the bargaining table as long as it takes to get there. We ask our educators to stay at the table with us, not close schools.”

PAT president Angela Bonilla stated that to prevent the strike from going forward, “PPS would have to come to the table with some serious proposals” regarding issues such as salary, building safety, planning time and class size.

“We’re at this point where this is the last resort,” Bonilla said, referring to the strike.

PAT Contract Action Team member Darshanpreet Gill, who is a biomedical science teacher, said that the district has the resources to meet PAT’s requests.

“The district has the funds to provide reasonable class sizes, increased planning time for teachers, increased special education and mental health services, buildings that aren’t sweltering in the summer, freezing in the winter, and falling apart year-round, as well as fair compensation for our educators that at a bare minimum keeps up with the cost of inflation,” Gill said.

This year, the district has a budget of 2.17 billion dollars. Last spring, PPS voiced concerns that PAT’s proposals would result in an unreasonable budget increase.

A major concern for teachers is the safety of their buildings. There are buildings in the district with “mold and rodents and temperatures of below sixty and above ninety degrees,” Bonilla said. In contract negotiations, PPS has refused to accept any health and safety proposals put forward by the union.

In addition to physical building safety, the union is asking for more mental health support for students. At many schools, there aren’t enough special education staff or counselors to properly attend to students’ needs.

Agriculture teacher, union representative and Contract Action Team member Sarah Nealon said that she knows educators in elementary school who are being overworked and must step into positions other than their own because of a lack of sufficient student support staff.

“If there’s a student who’s unsafe, or putting themselves or others in danger, a counselor, for instance, is having to rise to that occasion and be keeping people safe as opposed to doing their job, which is counseling,” Nealon said.

PPS and PAT have been unable to come to a consensus on an appropriate cost of living adjustment to teachers’ salaries. Some nearby school districts have more competitive pay, and Bonilla believes this has had an effect on hiring rates.

“Baker City increased their starting wage, and they started this year with zero vacancies,” Bonilla said. “[The PPS] teacher shortage is really an income shortage, a salary shortage or respect shortage.”

PPS teachers also currently have some of the least planning time in the metro area. Planning time is a paid period built into the work calendar where teachers create grade student assignments, create lesson plans or perform other job-related activities. Without sufficient planning time, teachers may have to work unpaid hours to properly prepare for their students.

On Oct. 17, PPS offered elementary teachers 400 minutes of planning time beginning next school year. This offer does not meet PAT’s request of 440. Clackamas, Tigard, Hillsboro and Beaverton all guarantee their teachers 450 minutes or more.

Senator Jeffrey Merkely and Representative Earl Blumenauer wrote a letter to Bonilla and superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero that appeals for PPS and PAT to “bargain in good faith [and center] student success by reducing class size, fairly compensating educators, strengthening equity and ensuring school safety.”

Teachers in PPS have never gone on strike before, although they have come close. A strike was authorized in Feb. 2014, but PPS was able to negotiate a deal before the strike began.

Bonilla anticipates that something similar will happen this time.

“We expect that the district is going to try to at the last minute say, ‘Hey, no, no, don’t go on strike. We can give you this, and we hope it’s enough,’” she said, “but we also know that they haven’t been coming to us with any serious proposals.”

The district released a statement to PPS families on Oct. 19, which partially reads, “We hope they will come back to the bargaining table and work with us to negotiate a resolution, but we have also made contingency plans if they strike.” They list supports they will offer students and families throughout a strike, like a continuation of lunch services and support for seniors working on college applications, as well as addressing concerns about an extended school year. As of right now, nothing has been released about whether or not the school year will be extended or how grades (or grading periods) will be impacted.

“We can’t expect [the strike] to end shortly because we want to be out there for as long as we need to, to get what we want for students. It could be long,” Nealon said. “We hope it doesn’t even come to that, but we’re ready for whatever needs to happen.”


The McDaniel Oracle is a student publication that aims to inform the community in a timely and accurate manner. This story was planned to be published at our next release, but we have decided to put it in the breaking news section due to the subject matter and its potential to alter the well-being of students as well as the course of the school year. Our reporters are currently reaching out to the district to speak directly with officials. For more details, reach out to us with questions and/or follow the story in the coming weeks. 

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Thisbe Delamarter, Online Editor
Thisbe Delamarter (she/her) is a senior who loves reading, learning and soccer. She loves journalism because she enjoys investigating and sharing new perspectives.

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    Erica MeltonOct 21, 2023 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for this closer look into the current state of the PAT/PPS negotiations. I appreciate and stand with our educators and hope that a satisfactory result can be achieved.