It was November 22, 2013, almost three years ago, when thousands of us came together on the Burnside Bridge. We were in the midst of our biggest campaign ever, “Fighting for the Schools Portland Students Deserve.” We knew that by standing together in the midst of horrible contract negotiations we had the opportunity to fight for our students and our city. And fight we did. We didn’t allow the District to gut our contract and roll back advances we have made for our students around workload.
It wasn’t always comfortable. We had difficult conversations with parents. Teachers tearfully packed up their classrooms and took home class pets. We didn’t like what we had to do, but we knew we had to do it. We were successful, given the resources we had to work with. However, we’re still a long way from that vision, for ourselves or for our students.
Once again, we are struggling to negotiate a new contract with the District. Did you see last week’s Bargaining Brief? The problem we now face is two-fold. First, the change in District leadership clearly hasn’t changed how HR, or the District’s legal counsel, operate. The other part of the problem is obvious: we lack the resources we need. We have the opportunity in front of us right now to fund the Schools our Students Deserve, but not without a fight. Once again, we have to come together for our students and our city and use the power of collective action.
I’m asking you to fight back against corporations who aren’t paying their fair share. I’m asking you to fight back against the false rhetoric that our schools are failing. I’m asking you to fight back against the demoralizing sense that things in Portland will never get better.
When we say we are fighting for the schools our students deserve, we need to ask ourselves: do we really mean that, or is it simply empty rhetoric on our part? I believe we all mean it. We fought for what is fair and right before, and now we have to be ready to fight for the resources it will take to fulfill our greatest hopes for our schools.
What does fighting for the schools our students deserve look like? Right now, it looks like everyone in the PAT who cares about the well-being of Portland students working to pass Measure 97. Fighting for the resources may not be something you’ve done before. Maybe you’ve never phone banked or canvassed. I want to assure you that you can do it, and it’s worth it. You’re worth it, our students are worth it, and we can do it together - just like we did 3 years ago. (And if you’re new to the district- it’s partially due to our fight 3 years ago that we’ve been able to add positions.) This election will be close. We can win. You can make the difference.
On November 8th, when the election results come in, we have an opportunity to say we fought for our vision of the schools our students deserve and now we have the funding for it. I’m so excited to get back to bargaining with the resources we need and our students deserve.