Thousands of kids in Portland, Oregon, are out of school due to a teacher strike that began on Wednesday.
When teachers with the Portland Association of Teachers walked off the job on Wednesday, schools were forced to close, which sent roughly 45,000 students home.
The union, which represents in excess of 4,000 teachers who work in the region, is arguing that their teachers need better salaries and more resources, while class sizes have become too large.
While the strike is going on, no classes will be held at all – not even online.
The contract for the teachers union expired back in June, and they have been negotiating and bargaining with the school district in the months since. After not being able to come to an agreement, the union finally decided to strike.
It said it was the first time that teachers have gone on strike in the Portland school district.
The state of Oregon has a $10.2 billion budget for K-12 schools over the next two years – which is a record – but the Portland Public Schools have said they don’t have sufficient funds to be able to provide the teachers union with what it is requesting.
The district added that the demands the union is making would end up costing them hundreds of millions of extra dollars, and would ultimately result in necessitating cuts to staff.
On Wednesday, Guadalupe Guerrero, the superintendent of the school district, said:
“Funding has not kept pace with the needs of our students, nor our educators. We strive to offer a compensation that attracts and retains talent. But, unlike a private organization, we don’t have record profits we can tap into.”
One of the top sticking points that exists between the union and the school district are salaries for teachers. The base salary for teachers in the district is roughly $50,000. The district, though, says that the average teacher in Portland makes $87,000 per year. That would be slightly above the overall median income for individuals in the region.
The union has requested that teachers receive a bump in salary of about 20% over the next three years. The district has countered with a number that’s about half as much as that.
Teachers in the district have said that they’ve been forced to work overtime to deal with the workload they have, as the mental health and academic needs of students has spiked considerably since the COVID-19 pandemic.
As such, the union has requested that teachers get more time to plan their lessons out.
The superintendent said in his statement that representatives for the union and the school district were set to meet with a mediator at the state level together on Friday – in hopes of ensuring that the strike doesn’t last too long.
Another major factor for the loss of funding has been enrollment in the Portland district, which has declined by roughly 3,000 students since the start of the pandemic, state data shows.