45,000 Portland Students Back In Classrooms After Teacher Strike

After an almost month-long teacher’s strike that began on November 1, students in Oregon’s largest school district will be allowed to begin attending classes again on Monday.

An agreement was reached in principle between the Portland Public School district and the teacher’s union, but that agreement must still be voted on by teachers for final approval. The more than 45,000 students in the school district had already missed the 11 days preceding the Thanksgiving break and are missing days this week as well.

“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.

According to Fortune, teachers in the Portland school district were striking over issues related to pay, class size and planning time. The teacher’s union heralded the deal as a big win for teachers and students alike.

“This contract is a watershed moment for Portland students, families, and educators,” said Angela Bonilla, president of the teacher’s association. “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.”

One American News outlined the terms of the new agreement that includes a 13.8% cost-of-living increase over the next three years with half of the teachers in the district also receiving 10.6% yearly step increases. The annual base salary in the district currently starts at around $50,000.

In addition to the pay increases, the agreement would also increase classroom time for elementary and middle school students and provide 90 minutes of preparation time for teachers each week.

Throughout the negotiations, Portland Public Schools repeatedly said that they did not have the money to meet the union’s demands even after lawmakers approved a $10.2 billion budget for the next two years.

According to the Washington Examiner, “The district urged voters in its statement to press state lawmakers for better school funding and said it would have to make budget cuts to afford the concessions to the teachers’ union.”

During the strike that ended with large pay increases for teachers, schools remained closed and there was also no online instruction available meaning that students have had a full month away from their schools. Even though 11 of those days will be made up, there are still concerns of additional learning loss among students.