Our Custodian and Nutrition Worker Colleagues Ask For Safe and Healthy Schools

Please read the following message from our SEIU colleagues, and sign their petition:

During the worst pandemic in recent history, cafeteria staff and custodians worked in-person without adequate staff or support. Right now there are more than 50 unfilled custodian positions in our schools which makes it impossible to adequately clean bathrooms and sanitize high touch surfaces. It's clear that we need more helping hands to do the work of feeding our students and keeping our schools clean, sanitary, and safe.

Sign this petition: We Need Safe and Healthy Schools! that calls on Portland Public Schools to raise wages and hire enough staff to make our schools safe, healthy places for the children in our community!

PPS has enough money to make our schools safe and healthy:

  • Oregon's Student Success Act passed in 2019 ensures strong, ongoing, K-12 funding.
  • $50 Million dollars unspent in the 2021-2022 PPS budget. 

PPS must pay competitive wages. Starting wages of $14.40 an hour for cafeteria staff and $16.70 for custodians will not attract or retain quality workers.

Financial Investment Seminar, March 10th

Dear PAT Members,

Are you in the early or middle stages of your career and have questions on investing for retirement?

Join us and Financial Advisor Ed Foster next Thursday, March 10th at 4:30 PM-6:00 PM, via Zoom, to get information to best strategize your plan for retirement. RSVP today! 

This seminar is geared for people in the early or mid stages of their career. Topics include:

  • How does my pension work?
  • How does the IAP account fit into that?
  • How do I set up a 403b/TSA?
  • How much do I need to save for retirement?
  • How should I invest my retirement accounts?

See the flyer for more information.

RSVP today! Please remember that these webinars are a perk for being a PAT member. If you are not already a member, sign up here today.

PAT Scholarship for Future Educators of Color

Recruiting, supporting, and retaining educators of color is crucial, for our students and for our profession. We are excited to award two scholarships to Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) seeking a rewarding future career in education. 

  • One $6,000 scholarship will be awarded to a Portland Public Schools graduating senior who plans on enrolling in a college or university program to begin their journey towards becoming an educator.
  • One $6,000 scholarship to a Portland Public Schools employee (not PAT eligible) currently enrolled in a university program to become a certified educator.  Any classified or non-represented employees, such as bus drivers, para-educators, community agents, custodians, and nutrition services workers are eligible to apply.

Scholarship applications will be accepted through April 19th, 2022. Please see the links below to download an application and find instructions to apply.

PPS Employee Scholarship Application

PPS High School Senior Scholarship Application

Please contact [email protected] with questions about the application process. 

Get the flyer to share with students

Get the flyer to share with PPS employees

What Does It Mean to Be Unassigned?

Dear Colleagues,

PPS has begun the staffing process for next year by announcing the reduction of at least 120 teaching positions. This week, educators in your building may be learning that they are “unassigned.” We know this can be stressful to say the least, and want to make sure you know how this process works and what your rights are.   

First and foremost, an unassignment is NOT the same as a layoff.  

  • An unassignment occurs when there are more educators assigned to a building than there is FTE, or when there is no longer a position in a building for which an educator is qualified. Unassigned educators must be placed in jobs before the District can hire from outside. 
  • A layoff occurs when there are more educators than there are available jobs across the entire District. Due to the number of retirements and resignations the District is expecting this year, they say they do not expect a layoff. 

To help understand the process, PAT has produced two FAQs that help members each year. FAQ#1 and FAQ#2 on our Know Your Contract web page, address the process, but probably not the emotional impact of the District’s actions.

Next week there will be two PPS Informational Meetings for Unassigned Educators, on Wednesday, March 9 at 5:00pm and Thursday, March 10 at 4:30pm. The meetings will be virtual, and the links are being sent out by PPS. PAT staff will also be at the meetings to help answer any questions.

More about the Staffing Process

Each year, PPS informs principals of the total amount of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions for their building for the following year. Once they receive those numbers, the principals match their FTE with the District program requirements and their individual building program goals. If there are more people working in the building than there is FTE for the following year, some educators are unassigned. 

When an educator is unassigned from a building, they may apply in the internal postings round for openings in their licensure. In a typical year, about 150 – 200 educators resign/retire, and those positions may be posted in the internal round for unassigned members to transfer into after an interview. 

If an educator is not selected in the internal round of interviews, PPS HR begins an assisted placement process that occurs before the external round starts. In that process, educators who are still unassigned are placed in open spots. It is only after the assisted placement process is completed that either layoffs are determined OR the external process begins. In the event of a layoff, it is not necessarily the same educators who are unassigned who are subject to layoff. 

This year, due to high expected attrition, PAT does not believe there will be many (if any) layoffs, but we cannot see into the future or make that guarantee.  

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events:

  • March 21st-25th, Spring Break, PAT Offices Closed
  • April 6th, 4:30-6:30 Rep Assembly

PAT Committee Meetings- Join the committee mailing list to receive a Zoom Link.

  • April 13th, 4:30-6:30 PM: IPD Committee Meeting
  • April 20th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Legislative Committee Meeting
  • April 20th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Membership Committee Meeting
  • April 20th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Racial Equity Committee Meeting
  • April 27th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Social Justice/Community Outreach Committee Meeting
  • April 27th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Substitute Committee Meeting

**Unless otherwise noted, all PAT committee meetings will be held virtually on Zoom for the time being

Upcoming OEA Training and Events:

  • March 17, 4:30-5:30 PM: New Educator Tool Belt Series: Implicit Bias, Microaggressions and Stereotypes RSVP today!
  • March 17, 4:30-5:45 PM: Online Licensure Workshop RSVP today!
  • March 30th, 4:00-5:00 PM: Social Emotional Equitable Learning - Webinar Register today!

For all upcoming events, please see the PAT calendar and OEA calendar

PPS Labor United Against Cuts

The workers of PPS are united in opposition to the unnecessary and harmful staffing cuts that PPS announced last week.

The following letter was sent today to PPS leaders, from DCU, SEIU, PFSP, PAT, and ATU. 


February 25, 2022

Dear Superintendent Guerrero, Deputy Superintendent Proctor, Chief of Staff Garcia, Board Chair DePass, Board Directors Scott, Kohnstamm, Greene, Hollands, Brim-Edwards, and Lowery, and Student Director Weinberg,

The workers of Portland Public Schools are united in our opposition to the needless and damaging staffing cuts that PPS is imposing on schools.

Last week, schools were informed of staffing cuts, including at least 120  teachers. 

These cuts will harm students and destabilize school communities.  Elementary schools across the district are seeing 65 teaching positions cut,  creating  class sizes as high as 33. Middle schools, which have struggled this year to maintain safe and supportive learning environments because of increased level of student need, are collectively losing at least 30 teachers. Across the district, school communities will be losing beloved educators and staff who want to stay.

During a time of unprecedented student need, PPS is reducing the number of educators and staff who provide direct service to our students. 

To be clear, there is absolutely no financial reason to make these cuts. PPS will have more funding than we have ever seen. This funding includes:

  • A projected INCREASE in per-pupil funding for the state school fund.
  • A projected OVERALL increase from the state school fund, even taking enrollment decline into account. 
  • An INCREASE in funding from the Student Investment Account, providing  PPS with $38 million for next school year. 
  • Continued funding from the Teacher Levy and the Arts Tax, providing PPS with $100 million
  • $112 million in ESSR federal relief funding which must be used by 2024

With the combination of all these funds, PPS should be investing in our students by dramatically reducing class sizes and caseloads and improving services to students. Instead, PPS is cutting resources from schools,  in a system that is already stretched beyond the breaking point. 

Along with improving class sizes, we can also use this opportunity to prioritize stability, safety,  to make next year meaningfully better for our students. 

  • Offer competitive wages to our custodians, nutrition workers, bus drivers, paraeducators, education assistants, and maintenance workers, so we can recruit and retain staff, and stop wasting money on contractors.
  • Increase custodial staff to better maintain our schools and give our students a safe and healthy school environment. 
  • Add Education Assistants and Paraeducators, to ensure that  students who need it can get individual attention. 
  • Invest in school bus drivers and infrastructure, in the short -term to stop relying on sub-contracting to cab companies,  and for the long-term to bring back all school bus drivers under the direct employment of the district.           

Our students deserve a district that puts safe, stable learning environments, and direct services to students FIRST.

Respectfully,

Jenna Bazner, IBEW LU48 Business Rep, President of the District Council of Unions

Jason Mcleod, Co-Chair of SEIU 503, Local 140

Amy Silvia, Ci-Chair SEIU 503, Local 140

Dustin Hysmith, Business Representative SMART, Local 16

Michelle Batten, President, Portland Federation of School Professionals (PFSP)

Elizabeth Thiel, President, Portland Association of Teachers

Shirley Block President ATU 757

Bob Tackett, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, NW Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Ira Erbs VP of Political Action AFT - Oregon , member PCCFFAP 2277

Ariana Jacob, Executive Council Co-Chair, PSUFA AFT-Oregon Local 3571 

Laura Wadlin, Secretary of PCCFFAP (AFT Local 2277)

Jodi Barschow, OFNHP President, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, OFNHP-AFT Local 5017

 

Oregon BIPOC Caucus Questions PPS Teacher Cuts

Dear Educator,

Yesterday, five members of the Oregon BIPOC Caucus sent this letter to PPS leaders, asking then to reconsider cutting teacher positions and raising class sizes:

“At a time when districts across the state have access to historic levels of funding, and when our students have greater needs than ever before, cuts to student facing positions should be the option of absolute last resort for Oregon school districts.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Please join me in thanking Representative Andrea Salinas, Representative Travis Nelson, Representative Khanh Pham, Senator Kayse Jama, and Senator Akasha Lawrence Spence for standing up for our students, and joining us is asking PPS to make next year a BETTER YEAR in our schools. 

In Solidarity, 

Elizabeth Thiel, PAT President


 

To: Portland Public School Board Members and PPS Superintendent Guerrero

501 N. Dixon Street

Portland, OR 97227

March 2, 2022

Chair DePass, Board Members and Superintendent Guerrero,

The district’s budget situation as reported and explained to us by educators, parents, and students, has caused grave concerns among a few of Oregon’s lawmakers, and members of the BIPOC Caucus, who represent the PPS community in the Oregon legislature. After an unprecedented federal investment in our neighborhood public schools, and months of collaboration between lawmakers and education stakeholders to address the education workforce crisis, we are concerned to learn that PPS is considering cutting 120 teaching positions next year. At a time when districts across the state have access to historic levels of funding, and when our students have greater needs than ever before, cuts to student facing positions should be the option of absolute last resort for Oregon school districts.

We acknowledge that there have been enrollment declines in the past few years; however, changes to state school funding are not based on raw enrollment changes in a district but are instead dependent on weighted enrollment changes across the state. Moreover, district funding is determined by the highest of the past two years’ weights, and funding per weight will increase this incoming year due to statewide enrollment drops.

So, while there might be some shortfall, it is hard to understand how the situation is as dire as reported. And when one examines the financial picture for PPS in totality, including: stable property taxes and PPS’s operating levy; SIA funds that can be used to decrease class size and increase emotional supports for students; and over $100 million in ESSER federal funds, it would seem that PPS may actually have a historic level of funding for district operations for the upcoming school year. Given this information, we feel very strongly that PPS should, at the very least, be able to maintain current services for students and avoid the dramatic cuts to teaching staff that the district has proposed.

We also want to express our frustration that PPS’ proposed budget cuts were all aimed at direct student contact positions. At a time when our community is trying to do everything we can to mitigate the trauma caused to students by the pandemic, and build a public education system that is equipped to meet the increasingly complex needs of Oregon students, it is difficult to fathom why PPS would propose a financial plan built entirely on cutting direct student support positions from our neighborhood public schools. As members of the BIPOC Caucus, we fear that English Language Learners, students with disabilities and low-income students will be disproportionately impacted by these cuts.

To help us better understand why you are proposing such dramatic cuts, we would like to ask several questions:

  1. What is the exact budget hole you expect for next year, and how was the budget shortfall calculated?
  2. How are you making the assumptions about costs and anticipated revenue for 2023-24 and beyond, that were presented to the PPS Board of Education on 2/22/22? For example, were community members who withdrew students during the COVID-19 pandemic surveyed to inform the assumption that none of those students would be returning to the district in the next academic year?
  3. How are all ESSER funds being spent? Please provide a line-item list.
  4. What concurrent cuts are happening to administrative positions?

To reiterate, we understand that difficult decisions often have to be made during the budgeting process for Oregon’s schools, but with over $100 million in federal money available to PPS with the express purpose of preventing cuts to student services in our schools, it concerns us that there are 120-160 student facing positions that are being removed.

Thank you for the time and help understanding this issue.

Sincerely,

Representative Andrea Salinas 
Representative Travis Nelson
Representative Khanh Pham 
Senator Kayse Jama
Senator Akasha Lawrence Spence

Elizabeth Thiel
http://www.pdxteachers.org/

PAT Asks School Board to Cut Class Sizes, Not Teachers

Dear Educator,

Last night, I addressed the PPS Board again on their plan to cut teaching positions and raise class sizes next year.  

Since last week, state funding estimates have been published, so we are now able to verify that PPS is not facing the 8% reduction in state funding that they projected when they first announced their intention to cut teachers.

As of the most recent information we have been given, PPS is still moving forward with the reduction of 65 elementary teacher positions and 31.5 middle school teacher positions, and raising class sizes to pre-pandemic levels in most cases. 

The full text of my remarks is below, and you can view the slides I presented here. You can also watch the recording of the board meeting here. Please also watch powerful public testimony by PAT members and students into the meeting.

Remarks by PAT President, Elizabeth Thiel, on PPS Staffing Cuts, March 1st, 2022

Hello Chair De Pass, Superintendent Guerrero, Student Rep Weinberg, and members of the board. Thank you for allowing me to address you again this evening. 

Last week, I came before you to talk about proposed staffing cuts, which will reduce the number of teaching positions in PPS and increase class sizes across the district.

I asked you to take a different path. I am here today because, while PPS has proceeded with cuts, there is still time to change course and make next year a BETTER year. And we have additional information now that makes that pathway even clearer. 

At the board meeting last week, PPS staff presented a thorough presentation on district funding. Thank you for providing that in this public forum. 

Having had time to review the presentation, I want to continue the conversation tonight.

First, some good news:

Since I spoke to you last week, Oregon published its state fund estimates for next year. The outcome is good news for PPS. PPS presented last week an anticipated enrollment loss of 3500, or 8%. But the weighted change in PPS enrollment is just 3.5%. 

At the same time, weighted per-pupil funding is going up

This means that PPS now has assurance that we will be receiving slightly more money from the state next year than this year, not less, and significantly more funding for each student.

This puts PPS in a much better position than when you projected that an 8% decline in enrollment could also create an 8% drop in funding.

This is, of course, in addition to the Teacher Levy dollars, the Arts Tax, and the SSI, which are also stable despite lower enrollment, and the $112 million in ESSER funds which must be invested in our students sometime over the next 2 years.

This is all really positive news, and reinforces the conclusion that there is not a funding shortfall that requires us to cut teachers and raise class sizes. Rather, we can and must give each of our students MORE.

Now, I have a few questions about PPS Spending.

As of last week, PPS presented projections that PPS is planning to spend an additional $48 million next year above this year’s spending.

The good news is that I think we are on the same page that we DO have additional resources to invest in our students-- a 7% increase according to this slide. 

My question is, what is the plan for this additional spending? Why cut teachers while increasing spending by $48 million?

I’m particularly interested in what cuts from the central office are planned?

Cuts to direct services to students should be the LAST resort, as just about each one of you told us when you were running for this board. 

Finally, I want to talk about enrollment projections for next year. 

Last week PPS presented a chart showing the historical and projected enrollment in our schools. 

During the year of Distance Learning, we lost students (green line). Last year, the district projected that those students would come back (blue line).

Then Delta hit, and we started the school year during the height of the most deadly surge of COVID-19, while children under 12 were still unable to be vaccinated. Many families remained on a waitlist for the Online Learning Academy for months. Some families chose to keep their children at home, or to enroll in online programs outside the district.

It appears that PPS is no longer anticipating that those students will ever come back (orange line).

Other parents and community members I talk to know families who ARE planning to come back to their neighborhood school next year, and we need to be ready for them.

In the fortunate (and likely) event that those families do choose to come back to PPS (purple line, my addition), we have not planned for that. A school that we are staffing now to have 31 in each 1st grade class, may actually end up with 33 or 34.

We could try to add positions in the fall to account for those students coming back, but it is unlikely we will be able to fill them, as teachers will have already accepted jobs.

There is a better way.  We can make this a school district that families WANT to come back to, and to stay in.  

We do that by investing in our students, by lowering our class sizes, so students can get the attention and support they need. 

Now some more good news:

I was told late last week that PPS had lowered the maximum middle school class size from 35 to 33 in Title I middle schools, and 34 in other schools.  I am told this added back 12 teaching positions. Thank you. Let’s do more.

We are still cutting 31.5 positions for middle school. Instead of reducing the number of educators, could we lower middle school class sizes to no higher than 32?  How about no higher than 30 in our Title I schools like Harriet Tubman, Lane, and Roseway Heights, Ockley Green, and George?

Let’s keep going!

PPS is currently eliminating 65 elementary teacher positions.  Instead, we could utilize those positions to bring class sizes down, starting with our CSI schools. Instead of 4th and 5th grades up to 32 students in CSI schools like Rigler and Sitton, why not keep those class sizes under 30?

Our Title I schools, like James John and Harrison Park, have Kindergarten and 1st grade classes of up to 28! How about we allocate some of those 65 positions so that we could cap those at 26? 

If there is still FTE left over after that, we could keep going and invest in smaller class sizes in all our schools. 

We STILL have the opportunity to make next year a better year. 

The resources are available and the need is undeniable.

Unassignments are already becoming official, but teachers haven’t left yet. You can still direct the District to improve the staffing ratios, and make next year a better year for the students we have, and the students we hope to get back.

Thank you again for listening, and for taking the initiative to put us on a better path while we still have the chance. 

 

Elizabeth Thiel, PAT President
http://www.pdxteachers.org/

PAT President Speaks Against Cuts

Dear Educator,

Last night, I addressed the PPS Board on their plan to reduce 120 teaching positions next year, creating Kindergartens of up to 29 students, 2nd grades classes of up to 32 students, and 5th through 8th grade classes up to 35 students.

The text of my remarks is below. You can also watch the recording of the board meeting here.

Remarks by PAT President, Elizabeth Thiel, on PPS Staffing Cuts

PPS School Board Meeting  2/22/22

Hello Chair De Pass, Superintendent Guerrero, Student Rep Weinberg, and members of the board. Thank you for allowing me to address you this evening. 

The last two school years have been incredibly difficult for our students, school communities, and staff. Looking to next year, we have an incredible opportunity to MAKE things BETTER.  

But the staffing cuts that PPS rolled out last week– around 120 teaching positions cut – do the opposite. 

I want to talk to you tonight about how we can correct course, to prioritize our students and stabilize our schools.

Enrollment and Funding

We’ve heard a lot from the District about the decline in enrollment over the last 2 years, and this has been cited as a reason for cutting teacher positions. 

Typically, we assume school funding is tied to enrollment numbers, so fewer students means less funding. But that is not exactly how it works in Oregon. The legislature sets an overall K-12 budget, and then divides it amongst districts based on the proportion of students they enroll. 

This school year, enrollment is down across the state. There are almost 30 thousand fewer students enrolled in Oregon schools this year, which broadly matches the declines we’ve seen here in PPS.

But the total amount of funding from the state – $9.3 billion in the 2021-23 biennium – has not gone down. If anything, we are likely to see an increase in state support next year, given the $800 million increase in projected revenue announced two weeks ago.

With stable state funding divided among fewer students across Oregon, the state is actually projecting more funding per-student for PPS and other districts. 

That means we have the opportunity and the responsibility to give each student MORE next year.

In PPS, we also have several other significant sources of funding, and these sources are also stable, despite the drop in enrollment. We have:

  • Stable funding from the Student Success Act, which was passed in 2019 specifically to LOWER class sizes and provide more social-emotional supports to students. 
  • Stable funding from the Teacher Levy, which voters renewed in order to support smaller class sizes.
  • Continued funding from the Arts Tax.

Again, these sources are providing stable funding, despite the decrease in enrollment. 

There is NO FUNDING SHORTAGE that requires PPS to cut teachers and raise class sizes.

AND, in addition to all these ongoing sources of revenue, we have a windfall of federal support, totaling $120 million dollars. These funds must be spent in the next 2 years. This money is specifically meant to protect students and school districts from cuts and disruptions like the ones PPS has begun rolling out.

All this means that we have an opportunity to make next year a BETTER YEAR. We finally have the funding, and the classroom space, to lower class sizes, which is exactly what our students and educators need.

However, this is not the course we are currently on.

The Cuts

Last week, PPS announced a reduction of over 120 teacher positions in elementary and middle schools across the District, negatively impacting almost all of our schools.

The rationale for doing so has been to increase class sizes to match the District’s pre-pandemic staffing ratios. These class sizes were too high then, and they are MUCH TOO HIGH now.

PPS’S staffing ratios call for:

  • Kindergartens up to 29 students
  • 2nd grades up to 32 students
  • 5th through 8th grade classes up to 35 students

We fully support the District’s efforts to provide better class sizes in our CSI and Title I schools, including capping CSI Kindergarten at 24. This is an important step, but we need to do MUCH MORE.

Even our CSI schools– which serve our students with the greatest needs, will have class sizes of 34 for 4th and 5th grade and in middle school– according to the District’s current plan. 

WE CAN DO MUCH BETTER, and we must. 

A week ago, building principals shared staffing allocations with school faculty. After a year defined by persistent staffing shortages and increased student needs, news of these cuts was an additional and unexpected blow to morale among educators and other school staff. 

Here are some examples of how the 120 cut positions will be impacting students and schools:

  • At Peninsula Elementary, a TSI School, next year 2nd grade will have 30 students in a classroom. Remember, next year’s 2nd graders experienced kindergarten online. This year, in first grade, they are learning not only regular 1st grade skills, but also catching up on things that are typically such an important part of kindergarten, like how to sit at a desk and how to hold scissors. Those same students will be in a single-strand 2nd grade class of 30. At the same school, two sections of 5th grade are being collapsed into one section of 32 11-year-olds. 
  • Scott Elementary, a CSI school, will be combining 4th and 5th grades, to avoid having class sizes in the mid 30s. That means teachers will be forced to split their time planning and teaching the curriculum for two grade levels.
  • Beach Elementary has to choose between having a full time school secretary or a full-time librarian; and whether to cut their instructional specialist, or blend grade levels to avoid class sizes in the mid 30s. These are not fair choices. 
  • Elementary school students across the District will have class sizes in the 30s, including at Grout, Markham, Richmond, Glencoe, Atkinson, Alameda, Laurelhurst, and Sunnyside, among others. 
  • School communities will be losing beloved educators who want to stay with their students and colleagues: including at Sitton, Rigler, Buckman, Abernethy, Lewis, Beverly Cleary, Harrison Park, and Vernon.
  • Middle schools, which have struggled this year to maintain safe and supportive learning environments, given the increased level of student need, are collectively losing 44 teachers. 
  • All our middle schools are staffed to have class sizes of 34 or 35, CSI and Title I schools included. 
  • We talk about the importance of relationships and stability for our middle school students. YET:
    • Ockley Green is losing 3.5 teaching positions
    • Kellogg MS is losing 6 teachers
    • Mt Tabor is losing 5 teachers
  • Our High Schools are not losing staffing overall because they are understaffed this year and will continue to be understaffed next year. Our high school students are frequently in classes with over 30 students, and many educators have over 180 students to build relationships with. 

This is NOT what our students need after two years of disruption and instability.

SO I want to come back to our opportunity to make next year a BETTER YEAR.

The combination of lower enrollment, stable funding from local and state sources, and $120 million dollars in Federal relief funding, means that we have the resources necessary to give our students what they need: more individual attention from their teachers, calm and safe classrooms, and more opportunities for personal connections, engagement, and support.

As a board, you always aim to be student-centered in your decision-making. When we talk about the budget and staffing, that means prioritizing direct supports for students. Cutting teachers should be the LAST resort, not the first step before a budget has even been developed. 

I realize that things feel a little out of order. As a board, you have not yet been asked to approve the PPS budget– that doesn’t happen until April. But these staffing cuts are happening NOW. Principles have already presented these cuts to staff, and in the next week, will begin formally unassigning teachers. And after being unassigned from their schools, many teachers are likely to look for jobs in other districts or other fields, which will only make our staffing shortage worse.

If we stay on this path, we are choosing to implement pre-pandemic staffing levels and class sizes, which already fell short of meeting our students’ needs.

But there is another path, and we are asking you to take it. Every parent and educator knows that students thrive when they have the support and attention they need and deserve. Instead of cutting teachers, please direct the District to CUT CLASS SIZES. 

The resources are available and the need is undeniable.

I’m here tonight because it’s not too late yet to fix this, if the Board takes action now. 

You can direct the District to pause on unassigning educators, and instead improve the staffing ratios and put those 120+ teaching positions back in classrooms where our students need them.

Thank you for listening, and for taking the initiative to put us on a better path while we still have the chance. 

 

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

PAT President Speaks Against Staffing Cuts

Dear Educator,

Last night, I addressed the PPS Board on their plan to reduce 120 teaching positions next year, creating Kindergartens of up to 29 students, 2nd grades classes of up to 32 students, and 5th through 8th grade classes up to 35 students.

The text of my remarks is below. You can also watch the recording of the board meeting here.

Remarks by PAT President, Elizabeth Thiel, on PPS Staffing Cuts

PPS School Board Meeting  2/22/22

Hello Chair De Pass, Superintendent Guerrero, Student Rep Weinberg, and members of the board. Thank you for allowing me to address you this evening. 

The last two school years have been incredibly difficult for our students, school communities, and staff. Looking to next year, we have an incredible opportunity to MAKE things BETTER.  

But the staffing cuts that PPS rolled out last week– around 120 teaching positions cut – do the opposite. 

I want to talk to you tonight about how we can correct course, to prioritize our students and stabilize our schools.

Enrollment and Funding

We’ve heard a lot from the District about the decline in enrollment over the last 2 years, and this has been cited as a reason for cutting teacher positions. 

Typically, we assume school funding is tied to enrollment numbers, so fewer students means less funding. But that is not exactly how it works in Oregon. The legislature sets an overall K-12 budget, and then divides it amongst districts based on the proportion of students they enroll. 

This school year, enrollment is down across the state. There are almost 30 thousand fewer students enrolled in Oregon schools this year, which broadly matches the declines we’ve seen here in PPS.

But the total amount of funding from the state – $9.3 billion in the 2021-23 biennium – has not gone down. If anything, we are likely to see an increase in state support next year, given the $800 million increase in projected revenue announced two weeks ago.

With stable state funding divided among fewer students across Oregon, the state is actually projecting more funding per-student for PPS and other districts. 

That means we have the opportunity and the responsibility to give each student MORE next year.

In PPS, we also have several other significant sources of funding, and these sources are also stable, despite the drop in enrollment. We have:

  • Stable funding from the Student Success Act, which was passed in 2019 specifically to LOWER class sizes and provide more social-emotional supports to students. 
  • Stable funding from the Teacher Levy, which voters renewed in order to support smaller class sizes.
  • Continued funding from the Arts Tax.

Again, these sources are providing stable funding, despite the decrease in enrollment. 

There is NO FUNDING SHORTAGE that requires PPS to cut teachers and raise class sizes.

AND, in addition to all these ongoing sources of revenue, we have a windfall of federal support, totaling $120 million dollars. These funds must be spent in the next 2 years. This money is specifically meant to protect students and school districts from cuts and disruptions like the ones PPS has begun rolling out.

All this means that we have an opportunity to make next year a BETTER YEAR. We finally have the funding, and the classroom space, to lower class sizes, which is exactly what our students and educators need.

However, this is not the course we are currently on.

The Cuts

Last week, PPS announced a reduction of over 120 teacher positions in elementary and middle schools across the District, negatively impacting almost all of our schools.

The rationale for doing so has been to increase class sizes to match the District’s pre-pandemic staffing ratios. These class sizes were too high then, and they are MUCH TOO HIGH now.

PPS’S staffing ratios call for:

  • Kindergartens up to 29 students
  • 2nd grades up to 32 students
  • 5th through 8th grade classes up to 35 students

We fully support the District’s efforts to provide better class sizes in our CSI and Title I schools, including capping CSI Kindergarten at 24. This is an important step, but we need to do MUCH MORE.

Even our CSI schools– which serve our students with the greatest needs, will have class sizes of 34 for 4th and 5th grade and in middle school– according to the District’s current plan. 

WE CAN DO MUCH BETTER, and we must. 

A week ago, building principals shared staffing allocations with school faculty. After a year defined by persistent staffing shortages and increased student needs, news of these cuts was an additional and unexpected blow to morale among educators and other school staff. 

Here are some examples of how the 120 cut positions will be impacting students and schools:

  • At Peninsula Elementary, a Title I School, next year 2nd grade will have 30 students in a classroom. Remember, next year’s 2nd graders experienced kindergarten online. This year, in first grade, they are learning not only regular 1st grade skills, but also catching up on things that are typically such an important part of kindergarten, like how to sit at a desk and how to hold scissors. Those same students will be in a single-strand 2nd grade class of 30. At the same school, two sections of 5th grade are being collapsed into one section of 32 11-year-olds. 
  • Scott Elementary, a CSI school, will be combining 4th and 5th grades, to avoid having class sizes in the mid 30s. That means teachers will be forced to split their time planning and teaching the curriculum for two grade levels.
  • Beach Elementary has to choose between having a full time school secretary or a full-time librarian; and whether to cut their instructional specialist, or blend grade levels to avoid class sizes in the mid 30s. These are not fair choices. 
  • Elementary school students across the District will have class sizes in the 30s, including at Grout, Markham, Richmond, Glencoe, Atkinson, Alameda, Laurelhurst, and Sunnyside, among others. 
  • School communities will be losing beloved educators who want to stay with their students and colleagues: including at Sitton, Rigler, Buckman, Abernethy, Lewis, Beverly Cleary, Harrison Park, and Vernon.
  • Middle schools, which have struggled this year to maintain safe and supportive learning environments, given the increased level of student need, are collectively losing 44 teachers. 
  • All our middle schools are staffed to have class sizes of 34 or 35, CSI and Title I schools included. 
  • We talk about the importance of relationships and stability for our middle school students. YET:
    • Ockley Green is losing 3.5 teaching positions
    • Kellogg MS is losing 6 teachers
    • Mt Tabor is losing 5 teachers
  • Our High Schools are not losing staffing overall because they are understaffed this year and will continue to be understaffed next year. Our high school students are frequently in classes with over 30 students, and many educators have over 180 students to build relationships with. 

This is NOT what our students need after two years of disruption and instability.

SO I want to come back to our opportunity to make next year a BETTER YEAR.

The combination of lower enrollment, stable funding from local and state sources, and $120 million dollars in Federal relief funding, means that we have the resources necessary to give our students what they need: more individual attention from their teachers, calm and safe classrooms, and more opportunities for personal connections, engagement, and support.

As a board, you always aim to be student-centered in your decision-making. When we talk about the budget and staffing, that means prioritizing direct supports for students. Cutting teachers should be the LAST resort, not the first step before a budget has even been developed. 

I realize that things feel a little out of order. As a board, you have not yet been asked to approve the PPS budget– that doesn’t happen until April. But these staffing cuts are happening NOW. Principles have already presented these cuts to staff, and in the next week, will begin formally unassigning teachers. And after being unassigned from their schools, many teachers are likely to look for jobs in other districts or other fields, which will only make our staffing shortage worse.

If we stay on this path, we are choosing to implement pre-pandemic staffing levels and class sizes, which already fell short of meeting our students’ needs.

But there is another path, and we are asking you to take it. Every parent and educator knows that students thrive when they have the support and attention they need and deserve. Instead of cutting teachers, please direct the District to CUT CLASS SIZES. 

The resources are available and the need is undeniable.

I’m here tonight because it’s not too late yet to fix this, if the Board takes action now. 

You can direct the District to pause on unassigning educators, and instead improve the staffing ratios and put those 120+ teaching positions back in classrooms where our students need them.

Thank you for listening, and for taking the initiative to put us on a better path while we still have the chance. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Below are the target class size ranges and allowable maximum class sizes being used by District Administrators in their staffing allocation decisions, as outlined in the PPS document Staffing Guidelines & Core Program Handbook 2022-23. February 14, 2022

President's Message: With Millions in New Funding, PPS Cuts Teachers

Dear Educator,

Next year, we expect PPS to have more funding than we have ever seen. So we were shocked to learn this week that instead of taking this opportunity to invest in smaller class sizes and direct supports to students, PPS is planning to cut approximately 120 educators from schools. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the need for PPS to prioritize stability in our schools. As we plan for next year, PPS has the opportunity to show real leadership in strengthening our school communities– starting with providing enough staff to meet the needs of our students, and to retain our talented educators. 

After the last two years, it is unconscionable to cut staff from our school system. Looking at the numbers, it is also completely unnecessary. 

While PPS wrote to PPS families today about “maintaining” 40 positions, they did not mention the 121 elementary and middle school teacher positions they plan to cut from classrooms across the District. They also failed to mention that there is no budget shortfall necessitating ANY cuts from schools.   

For educators being unassigned from their school communities, and students and families learning of the loss of beloved educators, the news of these cuts is demoralizing, confusing, and destabilizing. 

The District’s rationale for cutting staff from schools is that PPS has fewer students than before the pandemic. In fact, PPS is projecting about 3,400 fewer students next year than pre-pandemic, an 8% difference. Many districts in the state are in the same boat, with about 30,000 fewer students in Oregon public schools than in the 2019-20 school year. 

However, it is a false conclusion that 8% fewer students equals an 8% cut in funding. Here is how school funding works in Oregon: each biennium, lawmakers set aside a given amount of money for the state schools fund, and this amount is divided by the number of students in the state. Because there are fewer students statewide, there is more funding to support each student in the state. PPS is actually projected to receive MORE funding per student from the state school fund next year, and more funding overall, despite the drop in enrollment. 

This gives PPS the opportunity to do exactly what our students and educators need: improve class sizes, reduce caseloads, and add direct supports for students across the district. Instead, the plan they released this week is to cut teachers from elementary and middle schools, allowing class-sizes as high as 29 in Kindergarten.

The District’s plan to cut staff is even more outrageous given all the additional funding coming to the District which can and should be used to reduce class sizes:

The Student Success Act, the result of our collective action, including tens of thousands of educators rallying statewide on May 8, 2019, will bring PPS about $35 million for next school year. These funds are specifically meant to reduce class sizes and support students’ behavioral and mental health needs. 

In addition to that new funding, PPS has received over $116 million in federal ESSR funds, much of which remains unspent. These funds must be used by September, 2024 or be returned to the Department of Education.

On top of federal and state funding, our community has shown up again and again to support schools by voting for the Teachers Levy and the Arts tax, which together provide over $100 million to PPS. Both funds are expressly for the purpose of increasing the number of educators in our schools.

With the combination of all these funds, PPS should be investing in our students by dramatically reducing class sizes and caseloads. Instead, they plan to cut up to $18 million dollars in direct services to students, in a system that is already stretched beyond the breaking point. 

Of course, if PPS really does believe it is necessary to implement budget cuts in our district despite all this new funding, schools and classrooms are the LAST place they should cut. 

Our students deserve a district that puts direct services to students FIRST.

 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

What Happens if I am Unassigned?

This week, PPS started the staffing process by releasing initial staffing allocations to schools. Some schools and programs are seeing a reduction of staff, potentially resulting in unassignments.

Your PAT/PPS contract (Article 18) provides a process for determining which educator(s) will be “unassigned” from their current worksite, as well as procedures for their transfer to another site/program.  

An unassignment does not mean that the educator loses a job at PPS.  It simply means they will be transferred and assigned to a different position.

In general, the least senior educator licensed in the affected subject area will be unassigned. However, there are some important exceptions:

  • The administrator must first ask for volunteers. Volunteers will be unassigned and transferred instead if they are appropriately licensed in the affected grade level or subject matter area (and are not on a Program of Assistance).
  • The administrator may request an exception to retain educators of color to maintain a racial balance of educators to students at the site.
  • The administrator may request an exception to maintain a gender balance of educators at the site.
  • The administrator may request an exception to retain an educator with bilingual or multilingual ability relevant to the assignment.

Unassigned educators are eligible to apply for vacant positions during the internal transfer process. All unassigned educators in a subject area must be assigned before PPS may consider any outside applicants.

Here is the timeline (dates are subject to change):

  • PPS Informational Meeting for Unassigned Educators (details to follow) - March 9 at 5:00pm & March 10 at 4:30 pm
  • Internal Phase Vacancies Posted - March 14 - March 18
  • Interviews - March 28-30
  • Remaining Unassigned Educators Notified of Assignments - Mid-April
  • External Phase Opens – Mid-April

Find more information here: 

 

If you are reading this, please click this link to receive a small gift from your PAT Membership Committee, and to be entered in a raffle to win a gift card (1 in 30 chance of winning)!

PAT Scholarships for Future Educators of Color

Here at PAT we want to do all we can to support our BIPOC students and staff who are interested in pursuing a rewarding career in education. PAT will be providing two $6,000 scholarships for future educators of color! 

Do you know a BIPOC PPS Employee who is currently studying to become a fully-licensed educator? Do you know BIPOC PPS students who are interested in attending college and studying to become an educator? Please help us get the word out and share this scholarship information with your staff and students!

PAT Future Educator of Color PPS Employee Scholarship:

Who: ALL Non-PAT member PPS Employees of Color who would like to pursue a college degree & licensure to become a PPS Certified Educator (Teacher, Counselor, Social Worker, School Psychologist, QMHP, School Psychologist, SLP) 

What: $6,000 Scholarship which can be used at any college or university 

Requirements: Scholarship Application, 2 Letters of Recommendation & Official Transcript

Scholarship Application DUE: April 19th, 2022 

See our flyer!

PAT Future Educator of Color PPS Student Scholarship:

Who: ALL PPS High School Seniors who would like to pursue a college degree & licensure to become a PPS Certified Educator (Teacher, Counselor, Social Worker, School Psychologist, QMHP, School Psychologist, SLP) 

What: $6,000 Scholarship which can be used at any college or university 

Requirements: Scholarship Application, 2 Letters of Recommendation & Official Transcript 

Scholarship Application DUE: April 19th, 2022 

See our flyer!

Know Your Contract: Unpaid Leave-- Deadline March 1st

If you are considering taking an Unpaid Leave next year, please review the deadline listed below. (Additional information regarding these unpaid leaves can be found on the PPS website.)

Full-Year Unpaid Leave

March 1st

17.4.1

Requests for a full year unpaid Personal, Exchange, or Career Development leave of absence (whether part-time or full-time) for the next school year must be submitted to Human Resources prior to March 1 or the leave will not be approved, except in extenuating circumstances where such leave requests will not be unreasonably denied.

 

PAT Election Reminder- Vote by February 24th

Don’t forget to vote in the 2022 PAT Elections! Votes must be submitted by Thursday, February 24 at 5:00 PM. The ballot lists candidates for PAT President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Board Directors, OEA RA delegates, and NEA RA delegates. If you have not received your ballot (sent to your PPS email address), or if you are not a member and would like to join so that you may vote, please contact [email protected]

PAT PAC Makes Early Endorsements for May Primary

The PAT Political Action Committee is proud to extend an early endorsement to two incumbent Oregon House of Representatives running for re-election. The PAT PAC offers early endorsement only to candidates whom we have endorsed in the past, and who have a strong record for standing up for what we believe in: fully-funded public schools, workers’ rights, racial equity, and social services for children and families. 

We could not be more proud to endorse Representative Khanh Pham and Representative Maxine Dexter. Read more below.

HOUSE DISTRICT 46: KHANH PHAM

As a long-time community advocate, Khanh Pham believes that the best policy work is accomplished with input from our communities. She is a working mom, a PPS parent, and a relentless advocate for the diverse communities of the Jade District. In Salem, she is a leader in Oregon's transition to a renewable economy, and will fight for the revenue reform we need to build a more just society.

HOUSE DISTRICT 33: MAXINE DEXTER

Maxine Dexter is a Pulmonary and Critical Care doctor, a first-generation college graduate, and a PPS parent. Having grown up lacking resources, she attributes her own success to her public school teachers, and to a union job which allowed her to fund her own education. In Salem, she is a powerful advocate for public health and affordable health care, revenue reform to fully fund public services, and labor rights.  

The PAT PAC is funded entirely through member contributions, not through dues dollars. Learn more about the PAT PAC here.

Get Involved: Join us at the OEA PAC Convention

Registration for the OEA-PAC Convention is still open. Register Now!

This year’s OEAC-PAC Convention will be held virtually, February 18th and 19th.  Educators from around the state will vote to determine which candidates OEA-PAC will support.

Candidates for the following offices will be seeking our endorsement at the convention:

  • All six US Congressional Districts
  • US Senator
  • Oregon Governor
  • Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner

Anyone who contributes to OEA-PAC is welcome to attend the convention; if you are not a current donor and wish to attend, make a contribution today at:Join the PAC !

Congratulations Promising Practices Grant Recipients

Each Year OEA awards Promising Practices Grants to members to support student learning or professional development. This year’s recipients are:

Sarah Parker:  Sarah is a special education elementary teacher at Parry Center Edwards. Sarah’s $600 grant will be used to buy iPads to personalize student learning with math problem solving games, puzzles, and phonemic awareness.

Heather Noble: Heather is a music teacher at Sitton Elementary school. Heather’s $800 grant will be used to purchase Ukuleles for her elementary students. Ukuleles are one of the best stringed instruments for beginners. She will teach them how to play and write songs.

Steven Geiszler: Steven is a multiple pathways teacher at Rosemary Anderson High School.  Steven’s $600 grant will be used to teach a unit on healthy nutrition. The grant will purchase food and journals. Using the students' cultures, this unit will teach students about healthy food options to share with their own families.

Congratulations to all grant recipients and the students they are reaching through these grants. Look for the Promising Practices Grant application next year and consider applying yourself.

Rethinking Schools- Climate Justice Workshop

Teaching Climate Disobedience: A Workshop Featuring the New Documentary, Necessity: Climate Justice & the Thin Green Line

  • February 24, 2022, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM (via Zoom)

This workshop is built around the new film, Necessity: Climate Justice & the Thin Green Line, which examines stories of climate resistance in the Pacific Northwest. Tribal leaders, Indigenous activists, and their non-Indigenous allies, resist oil trains and trucks and, in one key case, are arrested for a direct action at Zenith Energy in Portland. Those arrested — including long-time PPS teacher and activist, Jan Zuckerman — mobilize the “necessity defense” to argue their actions were justified to stop an immediate and grave danger. Workshop participants will engage with short excerpts of the film, writing activities, and structured conversations to think together about how we might bring the film — and the larger theme of climate disobedience — into our classrooms, curricula, and communities. Register here for a Zoom link. 

Workshop leaders: Tim Swinehart, Lincoln High School; and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project. Sponsored by the PPS Climate Justice Committee and the Portland Association of Teachers.

Saturday, February 19th: Thurgood Production: Affinity Night for Educators of Color

PAT’s Social Justice and Community Outreach Committee invites BIPOC educators this Saturday, to Portland Playhouse's BIPOC Affinity Night production of Thurgood.

Please register here to secure your PAT-sponsored ticket for the in-person Affinity Night production Saturday, February 19th, 7:30pm.

Portland Playhouse is dedicating performances to patrons who identify as BIPOC to, “be in a space that centers the experience of a person from the Global Majority in our theatre which, like much of American theatre, has been mostly occupied by white people.” 

This is an in-person production. Please click here for a description of the show. Portland Playhouse is located at 602 NE Prescott Street.

(For any PPS educator: please register here for a shared PAT-sponsored Zoom viewing of “Thurgood”, date to be announced.)

February 22nd and 23rd: OEA Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Webinars

OEA is holding two webinars this month to share information about the new reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. If you have been told you weren’t eligible for loan forgiveness in the past, it’s possible that your eligibility has changed under these reforms. Some topics to be covered are:

  • What changes to the PSLF Program mean to you
  • How to access the Student Debt Navigator tool to automatically connect all your loans to the repayment program in one place. This tool is FREE to members. Through the tool you can: 
    • Check your eligibility for PSLF
    • Get personalized repayment and forgiveness options
    • Sign and submit paperwork for loan forgiveness
    • Get one-on-one support from student loan experts

Tuesday, February 22nd at 4:30 PM OR Wednesday, February 23rd at 4:30 PM Register today!

Upcoming Events

  • February 16th, 4:30-6:30 PM: PAT Rep Assembly

PAT Committee Meetings- Join the committee mailing list to receive a Zoom Link.

  • February 23rd, 4:30-6:30 PM: IPD Committee Meeting
  • March 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Legislative Committee Meeting
  • March 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Membership Committee Meeting
  • March 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Racial Equity Committee Meeting
  • March 9th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Social Justice/Community Outreach Committee Meeting
  • March 9th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Substitute Committee Meeting

**Unless otherwise noted, all PAT committee meetings will be held virtually on Zoom for the time being

Upcoming OEA Training and Events:

For all upcoming events, please see the PAT calendar and OEA calendar.

Mask Mandate Changes

Dear Educator,

Yesterday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that, effective March 31st, the state of Oregon will be lifting the mask mandate for schools. 

We all hope that by the end of March, COVID rates will have dropped significantly and our communities will feel safe being in closed spaces with one another or with a classroom of students. However, we have seen time and time again how uncertain predictions about COVID can be.

We started this school year negotiating our Covid Safety Letter of Agreement with the District. That agreement is for the entire 2021-22 school year. Among other mitigations, our agreement states that  students are required to wear masks (sections 3, 11.j, and 13.e). Our LOA remains in full effect unless we jointly agree otherwise. If any state agency orders a change that impacts our agreement, we would meet with the District to discuss the impact. 

In the coming weeks, we plan to survey members, so that any potential changes to our agreement are driven by member voice. We will always advocate that school safety standards are driven by science.

I also wanted to share this statement from the Oregon Department of Education, sent yesterday. It clarifies that schools and school districts “may continue to require students, staff, volunteers, and/or visitors to wear face coverings during indoor or outdoor activities, similar to other COVID-19 mitigation protocols such as physical distancing, and airflow/ventilation.”

It also clarifies that if schools do not ensure universal masking, other protocols meant to keep students and staff in-person will no longer apply: 

  • Without universal masking, schools will return to using the general exposure definition: Having been within 6 feet of a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more within one day.
  • Without universal masking, schools will not be able to use the Test to Stay Protocol to allow students and staff to attend school during a quarantine period. Universal use of face coverings remains a prerequisite for the Test to Stay Protocol.
  • Without universal masking, schools will be required to do contact tracing for all school settings.

Please be on the lookout for a short survey in the coming weeks. Thank you for all you do everyday to keep your students, your colleagues, and our community safe.

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President