With Portland Public Schools canceling classes Monday and Tuesday before the Thanksgiving break, the district’s 81 schools will have been closed for nearly a month due to an ongoing strike by the Portland Association of Teachers.
The walkout began Nov. 1, and students are scheduled to return to class from break on Nov. 27. But it remains unclear if the Oregon district and the union will reach agreement on a new three-year contract by then.
Talks have particularly stalled on the teachers' demand on class size caps, according to the union’s website. On Thursday, the union proposed a 5% annual increase in salary for K-5 teachers if their class size exceeds 24 to 28 students. For middle and high school, extra pay would kick in at 150 to 220 students, depending on grade level.
As of Sunday, the union said negotiations were “positive and productive.”
“We made significant progress towards bringing educators and students back to our schools with improved teaching and learning conditions for all Portland Public Schools,” the Portland Association of Teachers said in a statement.
Before the strike began, the two sides had a roughly more than $200 million gap in their final offers during contract negotiations in September. On Tuesday, the Portland Association of Teachers said it had proposed changes that would close the gap by $121.6 million.
The union's main ask ahead of the strike was for a 23% raise over three years to keep up with inflation. The district offered a 10.9% raise over the same time frame.
Recent research from the Economic Policy Institute found rising inflation hurt public school teachers’ salaries nationwide, and districts like Portland Public Schools are struggling to keep up.
The Portland district said revenue is not keeping pace with operating costs. “During our last three-year contract with the Portland Association of Teachers, we served fewer students with more educators, and the costs associated with those educators increased three times as much,” the district said.