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Oregon Blog

It’s time for an agreement: Keep Portland kids in school

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Today, Stand for Children joined with 15 local community-based organizations to call on Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers to reach an agreement and avoid a teacher strike.

In a recent survey of Portland Stand for Children members, 75 percent said they believe the two sides should do everything they can to avoid a strike. Their sentiments strongly aligned with those in today’s statement.

“I think a strike needs to be avoided because it will be divisive for the community and particularly difficult for low income families. We need a contract that serves our students better and also supports teachers well.”

A strike is disruptive for students and families and creates divisions in our community. We believe that a settlement is possible and we are proud to stand in solidarity with so many other organizations in Portland who believe the same thing.

Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of teachers are back at the table today and have committed to meet Tuesday and Wednesday as well. We hope that those talks lead to an agreement this week. 

Here is an excerpt of the joint statement:

As community partners, education stakeholders and advocates we call on Portland Public Schools and Portland Association of Teachers to reach an agreement before the winter break begins. Adults on both sides must work together to reach an agreement that helps provide the high quality education our children deserve. We’re ready for a deal….

The lack of a contract threatens the quality of instruction that children in our community receive and destabilizes families. We urge you to keep a central focus on those most vulnerable individuals in this set of adult negotiations – the children of Portland Public Schools.

Read more in this editorial update from The Oregonian.

JOINT STATEMENT BY COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS ON PPS AND PAT TEACHER CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

As community partners, education stakeholders and advocates we call on Portland Public Schools and Portland Association of Teachers to reach an agreement before the winter break begins. Adults on both sides must work together to reach an agreement that helps provide the high quality education our children deserve. We’re ready for a deal.

This is a critical moment.

We all share the same concerns: Oregon schools have some of the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the nation – children aren’t learning when they aren’t in school. PPS is currently almost half students of color, but our teachers and administrators do not reflect our African American, Asian American, Latino, African, Native American and immigrant students. Our school year is shorter than many urban districts around the nation and instructional time is critical to closing the achievement gap.

The lack of a contract threatens the quality of instruction that children in our community receive and destabilizes families. We urge you to keep a central focus on those most vulnerable individuals in this set of adult negotiations – the children of Portland Public Schools.

A strike challenges our most vulnerable families as they have to scramble to find and pay for childcare alternatives. This creates a tremendous economic burden on struggling families that can be avoided with a settlement.

A strike fractures community. Like a suspension or even a divorce, a strike is a powerful symbol of lost opportunity. Students don’t want to see the adult leaders and role models in our community give up on each other. In the last two years we’ve seen how a strike in neighboring districts amplifies hostility, divisions and mistrust. Those kinds of wounds don’t just get erased.

We believe that our district and union leaders can do better.

The District has not kept up with changing demographics, the need for innovation and strong educators. This deficit disproportionately impacts African American, Native American, Latino, Asian American, immigrant and other underserved students. A successful contract provides an opportunity to further educational outcomes for all students by remaining focused on those that most impact the underserved. This raises the PPS “boat” for us all.

We, therefore, urge PPS and PAT to show the required leadership that will improve K-12 education for all students – the status quo is no longer acceptable and clearly will not get us to realize our state’s education goals.

We also urge you to take advantage of the good work invested by hundreds of community members, parents and stakeholders over decades by renewing your commitment to partner with us to ensure the District is better equipped to be responsive to community and family needs outside of the classroom.

Our diverse communities have a long history in this country of activism and leadership within education institutions and labor unions. At the same time we’ve also historically experienced exclusion from these institutions. It is precisely for these reasons that we urge you – our education leaders –– to take the bold leadership needed on both sides to engage in good faith and agree on a contract that prioritizes our young people and truly advance educational outcomes for ALL students.

We are encouraged by the progress last week and recognize that some of these issues are complex and difficult resolve. However, we ask you to uphold the very values that you strive to imbue in our students: good governance, fair play, and the golden rule.

Signed:

Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC)
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
Black Parent Initiative
Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)
IRCO-Asian Family Center
Latino Network
Oregon Latino Agenda for Action
Oregon Native American Chamber
OrFIRST
Philippine American Chamber of Commerce
Portland African American Leadership Forum
Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable
Portland 80%ers for Education Excellence
Self Enhancement, Inc.
Stand for Children Oregon
Urban League of Portland

You can also read a PDF of the statement here.

Comments

Let's get rid of Rob Saxton. That's what I would like. Then let's get rid of all the horrible teachers that can throw chairs. Teachers play and important role only if they are good educators. For the majority of teachers this is true. I cannot support our public school system at this time because there is too much corruption.
The teachers have given enough. Too much, really. PPS teachers have worked for free, they've watched their benefits get cut, they've seen cost of living increases vanish. Give the teachers what they're worth. The teachers are knocking themselves out. When are the parents and students going to knock themselves out? This is a great district, for any family that will put in their share of effort. The teachers already do that. And more!
I believe that you are correct that the level of competence of Portland school children is not high enough, and that the community should work with Portland Public Schools to raise those levels. I also agree with you that interruption of the school year is detrimental to student learning. It seems to me that Dr. King lead people of color in a fight against conditions that were unfair and unchanging until some serious disruptions caused the largely white power centers to alter their previously rigid stances. Have you read the "final offer" that the PPS administration has put on the table? Have you considered the effects on both teachers and children of implementing some of those "offers?" If the proposed contract seems not to be in the best interests of the teachers and the community, what actions would your coalition suggest, other than a strike? I taught in this district for 30 years and our four children attended PPS from kindergarten though their senior year in high school. During those years, I thought that there was greater cooperation between the district administration and the teacher groups, with the result of better morale and the sense that we were working together to provide sound education for all children.
Please come together and reach an agreement.
The Chicago Teachers Union strike didn't divide the community. It UNITED the community, against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and, er, Stand for Children. Hmmm.

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