Today your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS management for our 8th bargaining session. Luckily, PPS brought several proposals for our team to review.
The District countered our planning time proposal, with an increase of 40 minutes weekly for elementary school educators only, an improvement but not nearly enough. This is far less than our proposal to increase our 320 minutes a week of guaranteed planning time by 120 minutes a week and add additional grading days. They also proposed staff meetings on every Tuesday and no limits on the amount of required online training.
PPS management rejected our Class Size Caps. They claimed it would require an additional 516.73 FTE even though our caps are higher than or near the average class size numbers given to us by PPS management. For example: PPS management states the average class size is between 19.8 and 22.5 for Elementary (K-5) and PAT’s proposed caps are 23-26. Yet, despite the room between our caps and the average class size, complying with our caps at the Elementary School level would somehow require an increase of 134.38 elementary teachers. The numbers do not add up. We will continue to fight for enforceable Class Size Caps and Caseload relief.
The District countered our comprehensive Special Education Proposal. Their counter proposal was mostly an agreement to abide by Special Education law. They stated that Special Education TOSAs are working as mentors for our newest educators. They shared that our contract already provides new Special Educators with mentors; they can just ask for one! Our concern is around equity: Will new, overwhelmed Special Educators actually ask for a mentor when told there are none? We have doubts they will be able to implement this proposal.
For Early Childhood, we gave our modified Early Childhood proposal after feedback from our Early Childhood Educators. Carolyn Travers discussed the Safety crisis facing Early Childhood and Chelsea Clyde talked passionately about the need for Planning Time to provide our students a high quality experience and comply with performance standards. We see our Early Childhood proposal as a way to support our youngest learners and their educators, help to implement the Universal Pre-K program for our members and community, and as a way to address declining enrollment in the District.
Steve Lancaster talked about compensation compared to the cost of living. Compensation has not kept up with the cost of living, not by a long shot. Highlights of the data he shared can be found here. Over the last three years, PPS educators have received a total of a 10% cost of living adjustment but the cumulative rate of inflation during that time has been over 18%. Had our COLA’s been equal to inflation, the average educator would have earned over $12,000 more in total salary over the last three years. It is already difficult to afford to live in Portland, salaries MUST keep pace with inflation to ensure it's possible to live in the city we serve.
Throughout the bargaining sessions, the PPS management team continued to assert that PAT needed to choose between salaries that keep pace with inflation and allow them to live in the city they serve, workload relief that would make it possible to achieve a work-life balance, or critical wrap-around services that students desperately need. This is a false choice. Over the past two years the District has continued to have an ending funding balance over 14 percent of their budget, which this last year was almost $99 million. This is money that they can use to hire more professional educators, including mental health clinicians, to support our students AND provide a cost of living increase to salaries for educators and other PPS workers that keeps up with the pace of inflation and allows people to be able to live in Portland.
We continued to hear the theme of sustainability: Can PPS afford to maintain sustainable, safe, and equitable schools? We ask all of you, can PPS afford not to?
Steve Lancaster, Bargaining Chair
Portland Association of Teachers