President's Message: Bargaining for Smaller Classes

Dear Educator,

For years, our union has been fighting for smaller class sizes and caseloads. Many of you remember organizing with educators across the state to walk out of school on May 8, 2019, demanding permanent, statewide funding to support lower class sizes.

There are so many reasons why small class-size and caseloads matter: to give our students the attention they need and deserve; to create meaningful curriculum that is responsive to the individual students we serve; to foster positive classroom climate; to build the relationships and sense of community we know are at the core of learning.

This year more than ever, class size is a matter of health and safety.

Even when we aren’t in a global pandemic, overloaded class sizes and caseloads keep us from giving our students the support they deserve. Oregon continually ranks among the very worst states in the nation for class size. Student to staff ratios for specialists like school counselors and psychologists, school nurses, speech language pathologists, and special education are often more than double the national recommendations. And our students are paying the price.

Despite being one of the most important determinants of student learning, our union has not been able to fight for smaller class sizes at the bargaining table because class size was not considered a “mandatory” subject of bargaining under Oregon law.

Instead, we were forced to frame the conversation as a matter of workload, which is considered a “mandatory” subject of bargaining, and PAT has negotiated overage pay for educators with a class size or caseload exceeding specified thresholds.

Our position has always been that we do not want ANY teacher to have class sizes or caseloads that require overage pay. We want caseloads and class sizes that allow us to meaningfully engage our students. 

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the consequences of not being able to negotiate class size and caseloads. Across the District we have cohort sizes that DO NOT meet safety and health guidelines from OHA, OSHA, and ODE. 

This has to change. And we now have a new tool to make the change we need. 

This summer, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 580making class sizes and caseloads at Title 1 schools a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. This new law goes into effect January 1, 2022, which means this spring, when we start bargaining our next contract with the District, we can finally talk about class size directly.

This is a huge step in the right direction. We are hopeful that, by starting with our Title I schools, we can change the tenor of conversations about class sizes across the District. 

When we demand smaller class sizes and caseloads, we are fighting for our students and our public education system. But we also need the state of Oregon to finally fully fund our schools, at least to the level of the Quality Education Model. As we struggle to “build back better” during the ongoing crisis, Oregon has the chance to finally put the resources behind the rhetoric. 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

Know Your Contract: What to Do When a Student Won’t Wear a Mask

The PAT office has received numerous calls asking what to do when building administration will not enforce our safety agreement that requires students to wear masks. 

The answer is straightforward. We need affected PAT members to document the problem, so track the number of times a day you ask a student to wear their mask (or wear it properly), and the number of times you’ve requested your building administrator intervene to enforce the mask requirement. Obviously, this does not include students whose medical needs prevent them from wearing a mask.

If your administrator balks at enforcing the mask mandate, you can also share this section of the Oregon Department of Education’s Ready Schools, Safe Learner guidelines, updated on September 9th:

In the case that a student or family chooses not to wear a face covering for reasons other than medical need or disability, schools should follow district processes to determine how to respond keeping in mind both the responsibility for health and safety and the student’s need to access education. Conversations should be progressive and lead to resolution that ideally does not involve suspension. Schools cannot serve a student in-person if they or their family choose not to wear a face covering. Schools may offer a remote or online school option for the student. (italics and bold added)

The process of how to respond was laid out in our Safety Letter of Agreement (LOA) which states in Section 11.j, “The District shall not serve a student in-person if they or their family choose not to wear a face covering. The District may offer a remote or online option for such students.”

Documenting how many times you have had to request that a student wear a mask is how we demonstrate the “progressive” element of the RSSL guidance. By doing this you can help your administrator do their job--having a conversation with the student that resolves the issue and hopefully avoids suspension. Keep in mind, remote education is NOT suspension

If an administrator is finding it difficult to do their job and enforce our safety agreement, please have your building rep contact the PAT office with the details (no student names) of your efforts, and we will inform the District and school community of its failure to enforce a ratified agreement.

Know Your Contract: What Do I Do if I Need to Isolate or Quarantine?

Under the terms of our PAT-PPS contract and our Safety Letter of Agreement (LOA), educators should not suffer any loss of pay or accrued benefits if you are forced to quarantine or isolate following a COVID-19 exposure or illness. You can now use “Quarantine” as “reason” in Frontline. Your school’s timekeeper also has a code for “Quarantine Leave.”

If you have had to quarantine or isolate, and it was coded as sick leave or other accrued leave, please ask your building’s timekeeper to correct it. If this doesn’t work, please contact Peter Brogan ([email protected]). 


Know Your Contract: COVID-19 Notifications Must Happen within 24 Hours

We have received a number of reports that the District is not notifying educators about confirmed COVID-19 cases in their building. The language in our Safety Letter of Agreement (LOA) is very clear on this matter. If you are in a building where a COVID-19 case has been confirmed, you MUST be notified within 24 hours by email. 

PAT has met with the District to press for immediate resolution of this problem and they assured us that they are going to be streamlining their process. In the meantime, please stay vigilant and work with your building reps and safety committees to identify and address any additional violations, and please contact PAT so we can continue to pressure District leaders. For any questions on these notification requirements, please refer to Section 11e from our Safety LOA.

Know Your Contract: When Do I Cover for an Absent Colleague?

The PAT Office has received numerous questions about whether or not members must cover class for an absent colleague. 

The answer is in Article 8, Section 7.1 which states:

“Every effort will be made to employ substitute teachers to cover classes of absent teachers. Except in true emergency situations and except as otherwise provided in 8.7.2, professional educators shall not be required to substitute for other professional educators.”

Our contract also states that educators shall receive daily planning periods in high school and middle school, and in elementary schools daily planning time and 320 minutes per week of planning time. Any member who is asked to cover class for an absent colleague should ask when the planning time will be made up that same day. If daily planning time is not provided, a member should submit for pay the minutes of lost planning time.

If you are asked to cover a class, and you are willing to volunteer that is fine. However, you must be paid for lost planning time if you do. If you do not want to cover the class, then you do not have to volunteer. Students must have a licensed adult directing a class, but that can be the building administrator. 

If you are directed to cover the class, inform your building rep and PAT will evaluate the situation to determine if a grievance should be filed.

Celebrate Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month with PAT

Join us in celebrating Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month September 15th - October 15th! During this time, we commemorate the beauty of our gente, our cultures, and the endless contributions to our society Latinos continue to make today. 

The PAT Social Justice and Community Outreach Committee has compiled resources you can use with your students, including: 

  • Resources For Your Classroom

  • Latinx Heritage Books For Children Of All Ages

  • Videos Of Pat Educators Reading To Latinx Heritage Books For Students

You can find it all on our website

Are you doing anything in your classroom to recognize Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month? Share pictures with us and use the hashtags #hispanicheritagemonth #LHMPAT on social media so we can all see the ways you are honoring and uplifting Latinx voices at your school! Adelante!

Northwest Teaching for Social Justice Conference: Saturday October 23rd

PAT is once again excited to sponsor the Northwest Teaching For Social Justice Conference! The annual gathering of conversation, idea-sharing, and inspiration is just a few weeks away.

Join us ONLINE on Saturday, October 23, 2021. The cost is just $10 — $5 for students.

Register Now

The keynote talk this year is Dr. Bettina Love, an award-winning author, co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN), and the Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia. Her books include We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and The Pursuit of Educational Freedom and Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South.

In addition, there are dozens of educator-led workshops lined up in 2 sessions. See the full program at

We hope you can make it!

PAT Supports Health Care for all Oregon

Recently your PAT Executive Board once again voted to continue our membership with Health Care for All Oregon. PAT has been an official member of Health Care for All Oregon for many years. 

HCAO believes everyone should receive the health care they need, when they need it. While PAT members bargain and negotiate for our quality health care, we also believe everyone should have access to health care without going bankrupt. Often our own insurance costs increase due to others not having it. Health care is a human right. 

Among many areas, Health Care for All Oregon introduces and lobbies for bills in the legislature to provide universal access to healthcare. PAT, along with other faith, labor, and communities of color, supports this organization. For more information or to sign a letter of support

Grant Opportunities for Educators

The PAT Instruction and Professional Development Committee encourages you to apply for the following grant opportunities through OEA.

OEA Promising Practice Grant

Every year, OEA gives Promising Practice Grants to educators to support student learning and professional development for OEA members across Oregon. This year, there is $2,000 available for grants to PAT members. Members may apply for grant funds up to $1,000. Grants can be used to fund projects or materials that support improved student achievement.

Applications are due November 1, 2021. See our website for more information, including criteria, project timelines, and the full application.

Educator Empowerment Grant

OEA is taking applications for a *new* grant opportunity. Education Empowerment grants are awarded to help local associations engage members around important issues that impact teaching and learning. The grant may be used to support professional learning and/or to enhance and improve professional practice in a specific area. This grant should focus on solving an issue that will create a lasting impact on professional practice in a local. It is not meant to be used to purchase consumable materials and/or classroom supplies. 

Grant requests should correspond with the local association and/or school district’s mission/vision/goals, and must relate to engaging members on professional practice issues. Awards will be from $1000 - $5000.

Grant applicants must have communicated their intent to apply to their local association President. If you would like to apply, please contact PAT President Elizabeth Thiel ([email protected]) to set up a time to discuss your proposed application.

All applications are due by October 15, 2021, and projects must be completed by June 15, 2022. See our website for more information, including criteria, project timelines, and a link to the full application.

2021-22 OER Development Grant: Supporting Students who are Emergent Bilingual

New grant opportunity! Are you an Oregon secondary teacher who has experience working with students who are emergent bilingual? The Oregon Open Learning team invites you to apply individually or as a part of a team to participate in a new grant opportunity for the 2021-22 school year focused on developing open educational resources (OER) to support students who are emergent bilingual. Grant award: $5000. More information and the grant application can be found on ODE’s OER Grant & Professional Learning Opportunities webpage.

Oregon Education Association Fall Conference Kickoff

The OEA Fall Conference is here! Join us for three days of courses on advocacy, bargaining, member rights, and more. Find out more details and register online. Dates and times include:

  • Saturday Oct. 16 (9-10:30 a.m. and 11-12:30 p.m.)
  • Tuesday Oct. 19 (5-6 p.m.)
  • Thursday, Oct. 21 (5-6 p.m.)