Today your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS management for our 9th bargaining session. Your team brought 9 counter proposals to the table today: Article 1, 2, 11, 12, 16, 19, 21, 22, and Appendix L. We were able to get a Tentative Agreement for Article 1.
Last session we were able to bring Early Childhood Educators to share their stories. Today, Emily Glasgow, Director of Early Learners, came to give a presentation on PPS’ Early Childhood Programs.
We were excited to see the program will be expanding with 36 new slots in the Pre-K for All program expected to join us in Early Childhood (EC) next year. This includes adding two more Spanish Immersion Pre-K classrooms, one Classroom for Black Excellence and a plan for a Vietnamese Immersion Pre-K program. Each classroom is staffed to have 1 professional educator and 1.5 EA FTE. Every site has access to Family Service Workers, QMHPs, and Health and nutrition specialists.
Early Childhood educators have 12 pre-service days to plan, participate in professional development, and do home visits. They also have 10 “No Child Days” when they do assessments, planning and professional development. These are in addition to the 4 grading days we all receive under current contract language 6.5.2. Dr. Glasgow shared that there is very little turnover for Early Childhood educators. That left us wondering: Does the increased planning time, professional development, and time to connect with families make it easier for educators to stay in their positions in PPS?
Even with additional planning time, we know that Early Childhood Educators are still not able to meet the needs of all their students. We heard from Early Childhood Educators there is a need for more mental health and social emotional supports to respond to the needs of our youngest students. Early Childhood programs need systems to address staff absences and emergencies to continue to maintain the required staff to student ratios. Dr. Glasgow shared that there are 2 QMHPS for the 13 classes across the 5 sites currently. These QMHPS are responsible for wrap-around supports with the school teams for all 872 students in these programs. This is not the same as a rapid response team supporting an urgent need at a specific site that is needed to support students with immediate needs.
We responded to PPS’s offer of a 2.5% cost of living adjustment (COLA) by reminding management that educators must now catch up and then keep up with inflation. Therefore we re-presented our initial demand for an 8.5% COLA up front. Steve Lancaster explained the impact recent PERS cuts have had on our members and the need to make up for our lost retirement savings. The average educator stands to lose tens of thousands of dollars in their Individual Account Plan (IAP) over the course of their career. A pension is a promise and this promise is being broken by the cuts to our PERS. Educators have accepted salaries that are lower than other professions partly in exchange for excellent health insurance and a pension that would allow for a retirement with dignity. PPS management can and should keep the pension promise that educators have relied on to retire and make certain that our educators’ pension funds are made whole.
Our next session will be May 30th at PPS. Join us from 4:15pm-5:15pm (or longer if you’d like!) in blue to show your support for safe, sustainable and equitable schools!
Steve Lancaster, Bargaining Team Chair
Portland Association of Teachers