March with Educators for BLM, June 11, 6pm

Thursday night, many educators are organizing to come together in support of the movement for Black Lives. Please read more below, and consider joining in!

EDUCATORS FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Thursday @ 6:00pm

Meet at Revolution Hall (1300 SE Stark St)

For many of us, the last day of your school year is on Thursday.  Let’s end it by coming together in support of Black Lives Matter!

We’re calling on Portland-area educators (and beyond) to come together and join with the thousands who have been showing up nightly to march with Black Lives Matter.  There’s no formal statement as a group that we’re making, but our presence is to show that we stand for our students, our community, and for change in all institutions - including our own!
What to bring:
  • A mask
  • Wear all black or wear Black Lives Matter gear.  Bring signs.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and bring appropriate gear for weather conditions
  • Extra “safety” gear: hand sanitizer, sunglasses or protection for eyes
  • Organizers have provided snacks and water but you may want to bring your own
  • If you can, bring a buddy
Information to be aware of:
The protests, especially prior to nightfall, are largely peaceful.
With that in mind:
These are large crowds.  While there are kids of varying ages at these protests (usually 12 and up), we can’t guarantee a kid-friendly space.
It’s a long walk that ends generally in a place where we gather and listen to speeches. (This had been Waterfront Park, but has been moved to different locations the past few days.)
This is a non-violent resistance movement.  Some folks in the crowd splinter off, or other groups that one might consider more “confrontational” organize elsewhere.
You can come prepared in the unlikely (for those who do not wish it) event of a confrontation by:
  • Having protective eyewear
  • An extra mask
  • Hand sanitizer
  • A buddy to walk with
  • Check yourself - we take our cues from the BLM organizers.
More information?
This has been a quickly put-together effort, so we’re trying to gather information to answer questions you may have.
Click here for more information, which will be updated as we go along.
Looking for sign inspiration? You are welcome to print signs OEA made for BLM protests and marches.

 

President's Message: Finishing the Year Together

Dear Educators,

Congratulations on the completion of the 2019-2020 school year. Though it’s not the year we hoped to have, there is so much to be proud of and celebrate, while acknowledging the long road ahead.

We end the year in the midst of worldwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, and the institutional racism and white supremacy that enables police throughout the country to continue killing people of color. 

This uprising has sparked long overdue changes, and a much needed conversation over what makes our communities safe and how our public budgets should reflect our values and meet community needs. 

Night after night, tens of thousands of Portlanders have taken to the streets to protest police violence, demonstrating the power of collection action and why we must continue to organize for the world we want, for ourselves and our students. 

We know the change we want does not come easily, but we must continue to stand up and speak out. 

I’m proud of the work our Racial Equity and Social Justice committees have done to bring together educators of color and allies. As a union, PAT will continue to raise the bar, challenging us all to do better for our students and our colleagues. Our committees will continue to lead on this difficult work, and support us all in this journey. For now, we can celebrate the removal of police as a regular presence in our schools.

We should also be proud of the work we’ve done to secure more funding for schools--and our advocacy with PPS on directing how those dollars are spent. The District’s financial situation next year was a great unknown after the pandemic hit. We feared the worst, but once again, our collective action paid off. 

We took the risk of agreeing to participate in the Work Share program, and delaying our full compensation, to save an estimated $10 million for the District. We fought the businesses who wanted to use the pandemic as an excuse not to pay their taxes. We lobbied Congress for added school funding. 

And while Oregon hasn't achieved fully-funded schools yet, next year will still see an increase in our overall budget. We will have a total of 50 additional PAT members starting in the fall, and PPS is investing in the areas where we’ve highlighted our acute needs, like counselors, social workers, and special education supports.  

If the pandemic had not happened, we would be seeing lower class sizes next year, along with many other supports. Even without realizing these gains yet, our work with students and families has paved the way for where to invest new resources as we emerge from this recession.

We know summer means very different things for educators, and this summer is totally different than anything we’ve ever experienced. 

Many of us work second jobs, which may or may not exist because of COVID-19. And for those of us counting on that extra income, we’re figuring out what to do. Many of us use summer to pursue education credits or develop lesson plans. Now we must do this in the context of social distancing. Some of us are figuring out how to mark your children’s educational milestones without familiar traditions and ceremonies. While others of us are preparing our children for the next step in their education, whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or moving them into their college dorm room, there will be the added challenge of figuring out what will be open and when.

As you wrap up your year, please take a moment to acknowledge your colleagues who are retiring, switching schools, or leaving PPS. It isn’t easy to say goodbye virtually.

And as my term as PAT President ends, I’m not saying goodbye, just see you later. I look forward to continuing to serve my students and my union as a classroom educator. I’m excited for what our incoming President, Elizabeth Thiel, has planned for us moving forward, and am grateful for her leadership.

Whatever challenges and joys this summer brings you, take some time to celebrate the work we’ve done together.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Cohen

PAT President

Charitable Giving to Support PPS Families

Many of you asked what more could be done to support our families during this pandemic- and PAT leaders came together to launch a matching campaign with the Coronavirus Relief Fund for Portland Public Schools Students and Families.

We offered up to $40,000 in matching funds….and in just 10 days we raised $38,005, which we will match for almost $80,000 in total! Thanks to you for helping build this momentum in our community, and to all the educators who dug deep and donated to this important effort. It’s impressive that the average educator contribution was $120.

This is a potent reminder that especially in the worst of times, we always come together for our students, especially those most impacted. If you know of a family in need, please work with your site’s relief fund coordinator. If you don’t know who that is, ask your administrator.

PAT PAC Update

The PAT PAC is proud to announce that we endorse Maxine Dexter for Oregon House District 33 for the November election. Maxine Dexter won the May Democratic Primary for the seat, and will be appointed in June to fill the vacancy left by the passing of Representative Mitch Greenlick. Maxine Dexter is a pulmonary and critical care doctor, and a huge proponent of universal health care. She credits public schools, and the teachers who saw her potential, for helping her become the first person in her family to go to college. She credits her union job for creating a route to finance her college education. Her personal journey has made her a staunch advocate for labor and public schools. You can read more about Maxine Dexter hereAnd, congratulations to the PAT PAC endorsed candidates who were elected in the May primary election, or who will continue on to the next step in the electoral process:

  • Mike Schmidt for Multnomah County District Attorney
  • Carmen Rubio for Portland City Council
  • Metro Councilor Bob Stacey 
  • County Commissioner Sharon Meiran
  • County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson
  • Khanh Pham for Oregon House District 46 (headed to the November general election)
  • Senator Kathleen Taylor (headed to the November general election)
  • City Councilor Chloe Eudaly (headed to November run-off)
  • Mary Nolan (headed to November run-off)

Additionally, the Here Together Campaign to fund Homeless Services passed and will provide direly needed services to keep families housed and create pathways out of houselessness.It is crucial that we elect leaders who are committed to taking bold steps to create racial equity, economic justice, and environmental sustainability in our community, as well as supporting strong public schools.

Evaluations Update

Since the beginning of remote instruction, PAT has been working with PPS to reach an understanding about how evaluations would be completed under current conditions.  Although we do not have a signed agreement, we do have a common understanding with PPS Human Resources on the guidelines we will use.

First, we have agreed that if the steps of the evaluation process-- up to and including the formal observation-- were completed prior to March 13, 2020, the administrator will schedule the remaining meetings to complete the evaluation cycle at a time mutually agreed upon by the employee. That may include postponing the final meeting(s) until the 2020-21 school year.   

Second, if any steps of the evaluation process were not completed for contract educators by March 13, 2020, the educator will be rescheduled for evaluation during the 2020-2021 school year. Rescheduling is by mutual agreement between the educator and their administrator and it would change the evaluation cycle for those affected by one year. 

If the educator and their administrator don’t agree to restart the evaluation in the fall, the evaluation can be completed immediately when school resumes next year, using what was already documented this year, plus any new information. In this case, the evaluation cycle would not have a one-year adjustment.  

Finally, if the steps of the evaluation process were not completed by March 13, 2020, and the educator is a probationary educator, the educator will be considered to have completed their required evaluation cycle for this year.  

We know how difficult this year has been, and we understand that most evaluations fit the first scenario. However, PAT and PPS wanted to give administrators and educators room to work together on a system beneficial to everyone where formal observations were not completed. 

And in no case will any work done during this period of distance learning be used in any evaluations. 

Staffing Update

One of the many things impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is our staffing process. Due to the changing economic landscape in Oregon the District suspended the normal staffing process after the closure that began on  March 13th. 

We initially expected Student Success Act funds to add many new PAT positions to PPS. Based on these plans, PPS had already completed the first internal round of hiring before the closure. Since then, the changing budget-landscape has created a great deal of uncertainty.

Both the state’s General Fund and the anticipated revenue from the SSA are now expected to be significantly less than was projected earlier this year.  The net result of reduced state support, less SSA funds than originally expected, and savings from the furlough and purchasing freeze, will mean approximately 50 new full time educators added for next year. In other words, we’ll have significant losses from what we had hoped and planned for, but will have some modest gains in staffing as compared to this year.

With all of this in mind, we are happy to report that PAT and the district have come to an agreement on a timeline and process for continuing with staffing for the 2020-21 school year. Here are the steps for our revised staffing timeline. 

Phase 1: Updated Allocations to Schools- June 11 to June 22

Administrators receive updated allocations and determine changes to their program and schedule changes as needed based on updated budget and programming requirements.

Phase 2: Notification - June 22nd

Administrators notify educators whose position will change from their original 2020-2021 assignment. Some educators may be newly unassigned, others may be restored. Unless your administrator contacts you, you should assume your original assignment at your current school (AY 2019-20) remains in effect.

Any educator who was not unassigned originally, but becomes unassigned after new staffing allocations are determined will be able to apply in a restricted internal round before jobs are posted more widely.

Phase 3: HR Review - June 22 to July 9

Human Resources reviews each school’s updated assignments. All internal transfers that were accepted and still exist will be honored. Any leave of absence request will be honored (unless the educator has requested to rescind).

Phase 4: Finalizing Remaining Assignments - July 6 to July 16

The Office of School Performance and HR will finalize the assignment for any educator who remains unassigned.

Any educator that had previously accepted a transfer for a position that no longer exists will be able to participate in an expedited application and selection process for vacant positions.

Phase 5: Jobs Posted - End of July

HR posts vacancies not impacted by layoff.If needed, HR begins the layoff process by endorsement area and seniority.

Work Share Updates

Work Share Update: Salary Advances

We understand you may be experiencing financial hardship since there have been delays receiving the additional $600 weekly payments, as well as the weekly unemployment benefits you should be receiving as part of the Work Share program.

Please be aware that, if needed, you can apply for a salary advance from the District. 

If you are in need of a salary advance please contact: 

Ondra Matthews

Assistant Director - Payroll Services

(503) 916-3283

omatthew@pps.net

Work Share Update: Problems with Home Financing?

If you are financing or refinancing a home and you have concerns about how the Work Share pay reduction will impact your mortgage financing, the first step you should take is to have your lender call the The Work Number at 1-800-367-2884. They will need the PPS employer code (10999) and your social security number to access employment information. 

PPS has assured us that they have been reporting no reduction in salary level so there should not be any problems. If, however, you are experiencing any difficulties please contact Penny Robertson at probertson1@pps.net You may need to request that you be taken out of the Work Share program to guarantee that your mortgage financing is not jeopardized.

Building Access after June 11

Some of you have asked about gaining access to your buildings after Thursday, June 11. After PAT brought these concerns forward, Shawn Bird, Chief of Schools, sent an email to all principals clarifying that during the week of June 15, principals, counselors, media specialists and secretaries may be in buildings. Shawn Bird also clarified that while most educators should plan to wrap up everything in their classrooms by the end of the day on June 11, principals should work with individual teachers who need additional time, especially those retiring and those with significant packing needs. 

If you anticipate needing access to your classroom after June 11, contact your principal this week to make arrangements.

OEA Summer Conference: Registration Now Open!

OEA members have stood strong and amplified our voices in decision-making circles in our Districts and in Salem, despite the unprecedented challenges we have faced this year. We have built on the power and promise of our union by lifting up the lived experiences of our colleagues, students, and communities to translate the funding improvements we fought for and won in 2019 into tangible changes in our classrooms and schools.

Join educators from around the state this summer as we build on our momentum and make plans for the 2020-2021 school year. At the Virtual Summer Conference, everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner, and we all are sowing the seeds of change. 

Please register to join us online at our 2020 OEA Virtual Summer Conference: Power + Promise: Our union’s potential in unprecedented times. See the course offerings and register here!

You can register for as many or as few sessions as you like, and there will be tracks focusing on Advocacy, Equity, Professional Practice, Leadership, as well as Affinity Group spaces.

Contract Exceptions- Deadline is August 5, 2020

We have extended the deadline for Contract Exceptions for the 2020-2021 academic year to August 5, 2020. The Advocacy Committee will meet on August 12, 2020  to review all of the contract exception applications that have been submitted. This will still allow us time to approve/deny submitted exceptions prior to the start of next school.

The contract exception process will obviously be a little different this time, as you won’t be able to hold an in-person secret ballot vote, and you may not have access to a printer or scanner to submit your application and other documentation. Members have already found some creative ways to get around these hurdles:

  • For voting, members have been using electronic voting systems. Thank you to one of our colleagues, Julie Wright at da Vinci, who shared with us an online Google Forms ballot she created, which allows people to vote anonymously. [Click Here to access the ballot forms and instructions] You are not required to use this specific ballot, but it has worked well for some members.
  • If you don’t have a printer and scanner to submit the required documentation, you can take screenshots of your online ballot, or use your cell phone to take photos of any necessary documents.
  • Normally your administrator is required to sign the completed application. In lieu of their physical signature, you can have the administrator send you an email saying something like: “Although I am not physically able to sign this document, I am authorizing that my signature be used on this contract exception application, and I agree with the plan as proposed.”

If you have any questions about whether one of your “alternative” forms of documentation will be considered valid by the Advocacy Committee, please contact Jennifer.Dixon@oregoned.org 

Please submit your Contract Exception applications to Jennifer.Dixon@oregoned.org no later than Wednesday, August 5, 2020.

Building Moves

This year, building moves will be staggered due to the school closures. Educators should have access to their classrooms one day this week, in addition to Thursday, while students work asynchronously. If you have safety concerns and can't reach your building representatives, please contact your UniServ Consultant. 

Article 19 provides compensation for packing and unpacking if your move is due to a district reconfiguration or change. Within your building, you are entitled to payment if your administrator directs you to move classrooms after the school year has begun or for the second year in a row.  Here is a link to our moving FAQ: 

http://www.pdxteachers.org/building_and_classroom_moves_article_19

Retiring Educators

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our retiring PAT/PPS educators. This is not the retirement you deserved: unable to see your students and unable to celebrate with your colleagues.  

In recognition of your years of service, the PAT Membership Committee will be personally delivering potted plants to your homes throughout the week - so please don’t be alarmed if you see a stranger on your porch! 

This is not a farewell newsletter, this is our attempt at saying, “welcome back!” You have now graduated from PPS/PAT educator to PPS/PAT retired educator and you are now eligible to join the PAT retiree group- PMAE-Retired (Portland Metro Area Educators- Retired). If you are interested in joining, please contact Ray Johnson, the Vice-President of PMAE-Retired, at rayugene@att.net.

On behalf of all your fellow union members at the Portland Association of Teachers, we wish to thank you for all your years of service. You have enriched the lives of our Portland Public School students and families. Thank you again, and best wishes for your retirement.

Planning for a Safe Return to School Next Year

What will our return to school in 2020-21 look like? Will we be doing distance learning again? Will we be doing some kind of hybrid or blended model of brick and mortar school and distance learning? What about those of us that are worried about our health and afraid to return in the fall? 

We know that these questions are on the minds of all PAT members as we wrap things up this year. 

All that we can say at this point is that PAT will continue to bring the voices of our members into the planning processes with District leadership. The District is obligated to bargain over our working conditions and many of the changes that will likely need to take place to ensure a safe return to school for students and staff will need to be negotiated with PAT.

But the District is only at the beginning stages of developing a plan for the fall, and has committed to having PAT members involved in the different planning committees that they have recently formed. 

Please stay tuned for updates on how you can share your perspectives on what a safe return looks like and on how you can make sure that whatever happens in the fall, the health and safety of students and staff are front and center. 

Universal Preschool NOW

PAT proudly endorses Universal Preschool NOW campaign, and we need everyone’s help to make sure it gets on the ballot. Do this now! It will only take 5 minutes of your time.

We need 22,686 signatures to get universal preschool for Multnomah County on the ballot. Go to upnow2020.org/sign to download, print, sign, and return your individual signature sheet. 

No printer? No Problem! Just sign up to have one sent.

Preschool in Multnomah County costs as much as rent, and there are only enough spots for 43% of our kids. Meanwhile, preschool teachers and other child care workers aren’t paid enough to live on. 

Universal Preschool NOW is a grassroots campaign to create free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in Multnomah County, with an $18/hour starting wage for all workers, funded by a small tax on the highest 5% of income earners. 

Can you help UP NOW get on the ballot in November? Just download, print, sign, and return the sheet at upnow2020.org/sign.

 

Demand to End Police Brutality: NEA Action

NEA is calling on educators around the country to help end police brutality that disproportionately harms communities of color. Both OEA and NEA have endorsed a new congressional resolution, introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), which condemns police brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive and militarized force while preserving civil rights, liberties, and protecting all people from police abuses. As a first step, we are urging our legislators to support House Resolution 988. NEA makes it easy, with an email template that goes directly to your representatives. What are you waiting for? Take action today!

Link to NEA action to end police brutality 

Power to the People: PAT Supports Collection Action

We believe in the power of collective action, freedom of speech, and the right to protest. For the last two weeks, Black youth across our city have been leading demonstrations and demonstrating the power that collective action can have in winning real change; change that uproots racial injustice and moves us closer to achieving true social justice and equity. These young people are making history, and have already won significant reforms to Portland policing. 

We know many of you are participating in the demonstrations and marches. But we also want to remind you all that you have a legal right to participate in these protests and that you should not have any fear that doing so will in any way put your career at risk. Your union has your back. We encourage you to always be a proud PAT member by wearing any PAT t-shirts you may have while exercising your civic right. We are sorry we don’t have more BLM shirts, but we will get more. We also encourage you to work with your colleagues to show up together. Be creative. Be courageous. Be PAT.

PAT Statement Concerning the Murder of George Floyd

June 1, 2020

As the Portland Association of Teachers, we believe Black Lives Matter. We stand with all Black educators, all Black families, all Black students, and all Black communities against injustice.

Our hearts are broken. George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. The needless and brutal killing of Black people in this country is a crime against humanity. This type of brutality has existed since the founding of this country, and it is abhorrent and unacceptable. 

We must do everything in our power as educators to address the insidiousness of racism and white supremacy. As the President of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement released on May 27th, 2020, “This is no time for us to look away. Police violence against Black people happens too often. The threat and real violence toward Black people daring to exist in public spaces and even in their own homes is the direct result of how white supremacy culture is the air we breathe in America.”

It is our duty, our responsibility, to honor and uplift the lives of Black people, to nurture the young people we are entrusted with educating, to teach the truth about the injustices that run like a river through our country's history. As a predominantly white group of educators, we must do better. We must be braver. We must be committed to being actively anti-racist and we must hold each other accountable to that never-ending, ongoing work.

PAT stands in solidarity with all those in Minneapolis and across America’s cities who demand justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and all of the other Black lives that have been taken due to racist violence. 

As educators, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to take action with our own practice. Here are recommendations from NEA: 5 ways to address bias in your school.

With our students, we must teach the truth about the injustices in our society. Here are some anti-racism resources for teachers:

Teaching for Black Lives

NEA: Black Live Matter at School Resources 

AFT: Teaching about Race and Racism

If you are able to give financially, here are some opportunities to lend support:

George Floyd Family's GoFundMe 

PDX Bail Fund

NAACP PDX 

ACLU Oregon 

 

May 29 Communication from PAT- re Update from PAT on PPS Work Share Rules

Message sent to our membership on May 29th, 2020

 

Dear PAT Colleagues:

 

The PAT learned this week that Portland Public Schools is enforcing the Work Share requirement of a 20% reduction in work in a way that was never discussed or agreed to. While the District's expectation remains that educators should be working 5 hours a day or 20 hours a week, if in the course of your week you anticipate working beyond 32 hours, please notify your supervisor immediately. Your supervisor must then tell you what duties they will be taking off your plate for the week to ensure that you can complete your work within the 32 hours, or proportion thereof if you are employed at less than 1.0 FTE. If your supervisor fails to provide adequate adjustment to your workload for the week, you should not work beyond your 32 hours. Otherwise you risk being removed from the Work Share program for that week. 

 

Because PAT members work about 40 hours per week (when the two-hour staff meeting is counted), the four-day furlough total number of hours worked must be no more than 32 hours (four days of eight hours a day). As such, PAT advises you to keep a careful record of your work activities. 

 

What does tracking your hours mean? For each type of school that is a little different. Keep in mind that the current collective bargaining agreement requires that you follow a particular distribution of time each day. 

Continue reading

May 21st, PAT’s Matching Donation Fund Campaign

The communication sent to PAT membership on May 21st, 2020:

 

Dear Educator,

Many of you have been asking about charitable giving during these difficult times. We are excited to announce a partnership with The Fund for PPS where 100% of money raised will go directly to our PPS families and students in need.

Starting today, educators and members of the general public can make donations to The Fund for PPS and every dollar will be matched by the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), up to a maximum of $20,000. The matching fund campaign will continue through June 1, 2020. 

Your elected PAT Executive Board of Directors take managing your dues dollars very seriously. Because of COVID-19, items in our budget related to travel or larger gatherings this spring have been cancelled. We’ve decided to use a portion of these unused funds, up to $20,000, to support our PPS families.

All of our educators are going above and beyond right now to support our students. We know that some of you are experiencing financial hardships of your own, or that many of you have already done some charitable giving. We also know many of you are eager to work collectively to support our students and their families, and we are excited about the opportunity to double our impact.

You can help by contributing here and promoting this matching campaign with your friends and families.

You can read our press release here.  

Thank you so much for all you’ve done for our students, families, and communities already.

In Solidarity,

Portland Association of Teachers
http://www.pdxteachers.org/

FAQ's for Subs and OEA Relief Fund for Subs

FAQ's for Substitutes (as of 4-7-20)

While the coronavirus pandemic has us asking more questions than there are answers, please CLICK HERE to get clarity on some of the most pressing questions we've received from our substitute members.

OEA Relief Fund for Subs

In recognition that substitute educators have been disproportionately affected by a loss of income due to the COVID-19 school closure, OEA has opened up its Relief Fund to all OEA Union members employed as substitutes who have experienced a loss in salary during this time.

You can find more information about the OEA Relief Fund and complete an application by clicking here.

Each individual applicant will be awarded up to a maximum of $1,000 after the application is processed. To be eligible to receive funds, you must have become an OEA member by March 2nd, 2020.

We appreciate all your work and hope you continue to be well.

President's Message: Solidarity in the Time of COVID-19

Our lives and the lives of our students have taken a gut-wrenching U-turn in the past two months. 

And as I write one of my final messages before my tenure as PAT President is complete, we’ve been devastated all over again by what’s happened to school funding as a result of the COVID crisis. I started my career in PPS in 2003. Every year we faced layoffs, and I was a temporary teacher for several years. In 2005 I got involved with PAT, and quickly jumped into the work of our Legislative Committee, dedicating myself to improving school funding. I’ve been a part of every school funding campaign ever since. 

When I ran for President four years ago, I believed that Measure 97 would pass, and bring billions into our schools. I campaigned on the commitment that I would bring educators’ voices into the decision-making process--that we would shape how those dollars were spent. Things didn’t quite turn out the way I planned. 

A LONG ROUTE TO BETTER REVENUE

Within days of taking office as PAT President, our longtime superintendent resigned over fallout from lead in the PPS drinking water. Within months, it was clear that Measure 97 would not pass, and then Trump was elected. Together, we’ve sustained our public schools through all of these crises. 

While it’s been an honor to serve as PAT President the past four years, I’ve always loved teaching, and am really looking forward to returning to the classroom next year at Roosevelt. I’ll admit, part of my excitement stemmed from passage of the Student Success Act, and knowing our state’s budget forecast was solid. Just two months ago I believed that we would all have a chance to enjoy the fruits of our collective action, that we would be working with PPS to fund many, many more teaching positions, and that we would be in a better place to support our students, especially those most in need.  

Our collective efforts to highlight the needs of public schools and those of our students have not been in vain, but next year PPS will be in a very different place than we all hoped. On May 20th the state’s next revenue forecast will be released. We don’t know the magnitude of the coming recession, but some estimates project a 60 million dollar shortfall for the District. We don’t yet know what this shortfall will mean for staffing at PPS. Furloughs and looming budget cuts are not the teacher appreciation message anyone ever intended to send, but once again we must shift our advocacy to meet current realities. 

Of course, the state legislature could redistribute its current budget to address the projected shortfall, or draw on the Education Stability Fund. As educators, we need to send a strong message that lawmakers must shield our students and our schools from COVID-19’s economic fallout. As soon as more opportunities to support our schools become available closer to home, we will let you know.

FEDERAL ACTION NEEDED

Meanwhile, urgent action is needed at the federal level. Our national union, the National Education Association (NEA), is calling on Congress to allocate an additional $175 billion to stabilize education funding. The $30.7 billion authorized thus far is not nearly enough. It’s clear that the economic impact of COVID-19 could rival the Great Depression. State and local governments will need massive federal assistance to preserve public education and other essential services. A decade ago, during the Great Recession, state and local governments scrapped essential student services and laid off tens of thousands of educators. We can’t let that happen again. Email your members of Congress and tell them to keep students learning and educators working. 

We have already begun the process of protecting next year’s budget, by agreeing to modify our contract and accept furlough days. The PPS school board approved this plan Tuesday night. Together with our other labor partners, we are saving PPS $10 million, while holding PPS staff financially harmless, thanks to the federal Work Share program. This is a very unusual situation, to be partially furloughed without any financial penalty. But it’s not a loophole, this is exactly what these federal dollars are intended for--to avoid future layoffs and stimulate our local economy. 

OTHER WAYS TO LEND A HAND

I know some of you are eager to help others in need. We will be announcing a few ways to help our families and students soon. In the meantime, please remember the OEA Foundation. The foundation provides grants of $100, but is running out of money for the rest of this school year. If you can, please consider a donation.

You should have received an email from PPS on Tuesday outlining the next steps for our partial furlough. If you would like, there is an information session to learn more about the Work Share program. It is not necessary for you to attend. If you can't attend live, we will also be sending out a recording. It is being hosted by one of our labor partners, LABOR'S COMMUNITY SERVICE AGENCY, INC., a United Way of the Columbia-Willamette Community Partner. This is happening today, Thursday, May 7th from 3:30-4:40 pm. To join: 

Click here or call in at #1(346) 248-7799 or 1(669) 900-6833, Webinar ID# 892-5340-3568  As a reminder, beginning this Friday, there are no work expectations.

Many PAT members have also expressed concern for their students during this time. By agreeing to make up our 3 student days at the end of the year, students will be able to receive PPS meals for another week. Our students only miss two instructional days, and we all get a little more room to balance the additional stressors caused by teaching and learning at home.

As I wrap up my final months serving as your President, I want to thank each of you. It’s been an honor and a privilege to hold this position. I’m proud of the way we united to move Oregon education forward. Our bold collective action last May will enhance our students’ learning conditions next year and in the years to come. Meanwhile, we’ve been able to preserve jobs for 66 of our colleagues next year. Educators around the country are demonstrating similar commitment and creativity, looking for ways to protect students and classroom learning.

In Solidarity,

 

Suzanne Cohen

PAT President

Furlough/Work Share MOA

Recently PAT members voted to approve the Work Share Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and begin a plan for short term furlough days. Everyone understands the terms of the MOA, but some may not understand either Oregon Work Share or the CARES Act.

Because Oregon’s tax revenue stream is primarily supplied by personal income tax, every state-funded program faces cuts in next year’s budget. PPS is no exception. All of us recognize that cuts in PAT staffing means not only hardship for our members (loss of jobs and increased workload for those who remain employed), but also hardships for the students we serve each day because of larger class sizes and reduced programs. Luckily for PPS, PAT, and the students in Portland, there is the possibility to access funds through the CARES Act and Oregon Work Share.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became effective March 27th, 2020. It is a package that contains 2 trillion dollars of federal relief and economic stimulus “for American workers, families, and small businesses,” with the stated purpose of preserving jobs. One of the specific ways that the CARES Act is designed to work is by giving payments to states which have programs that qualify for the funding, and Oregon is one of those states.

Work Share Oregon is an example of a State of Oregon program that is able to access some of the federal CARES Act money. Work Share allows employers to leverage unemployment insurance (UI) to subsidize a portion of lost wages for employers whose work time is reduced due to market downturns or other business stressors such as the economic crisis of COVID-19. In other words, it is designed to help Oregon workers who are furloughed rather than laid off.

PPS and PAT, as well as all of the other PPS union-represented employees in DCU, ATU, SEIU, and PFSP, have agreed to address the looming budget cuts by setting aside money for next year by furloughing employees one day a week for the rest of this year.

The MOA that was approved by the PAT members and the PPS School Board is the agreement that will allow those furloughs to happen. As all of you know, by design, no one will be financially harmed as we proceed. The mechanism that allows this to happen is that PPS employees will take part in the Oregon Work Share program.

Keep in mind that our MOA specifically states that if an employee is deemed ineligible for Work Share, or if the entire Work Share/CARES Act program is stopped, PPS will return those individuals or the entire group to the pre-furlough schedule, and restore any lost days.

There are still details that we must work out, such as a workload agreement with PPS now that we will be on a four-day week. However, the PAT memberships’ recognition that we needed to protect our students and each other will help make next year a little less difficult.

Ed Foster on Retirement and Investment Questions

May 5, 2020

How would you like some good news? I thought so!

First, at present, the coronavirus situation has had no impact on PERS/OPSRP retiree pensions. Could this change? Possibly, but only after a Legislative session. Working from the classroom or working from off-site, you are still working toward your PERS/OPSRP retirement benefit.

But wait! There's more good news! If you have not received your 2019 PERS/OPSRP statement, allow me to offer a spoiler: it was a pretty good year for earnings. PERS Tier 1 regular accounts were again credited with 7.2%, with the Tier 1 variable accounts being credited 28.8%. PERS Tier 2 was credited with 13.27%. The IAP accounts (both PERS and OPSRP) had a variety of credits, depending on which fund the member was in (largely determined by age), but the average was 12.53%. 

Of course, 2020 is a giant question mark right now. However, there is even good news here!: because PERS crediting does not happen until Spring of the following year (and therefore allowing for the potential of a market recovery to help the averages), Oregon State Treasurer, Tobias Read, has said "For current state employees, changes happening in the stock market right now and over the next nine months won't affect your IAP account until the spring of 2021."

If this is all very confusing I completely understand. Typically this time of year I conduct a workshop at the PAT office where I would try to explain this and answer questions such as: Should I still contribute to my 403b? What is a 403b? Can I retire now? Should I? etc.

For obvious reasons, conducting a seminar simply isn't an option at present. However, I am still more than happy to help and answer any retirement/investment questions you might have. Please feel free to contact me at ed.foster@fosterassoc.com, or through PAT.

Be well!

Ed Foster
Registered Representative
Cetera Advisors
Foster & Associates, Inc.