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Teachers kick off strike in Portland, Oregon, over class sizes, pay

The Portland Association of Teachers, which represents 4,000 educators in Oregon, has gone on strike for the first time in its history.
Teachers kick off strike in Portland, Oregon, over class sizes, pay
Posted at 7:32 PM, Nov 01, 2023

Oregon's largest school district is on strike for the first time. Teachers in Portland walked off the job in a movement impacting 45,000 students.

Teachers are striking over pay, class sizes and lack of resources. They're the latest group to strike in a year that's been full of high-profile labor movements.

This is the first time in history that the Portland Association of Teachers, or PAT, has ever announced a strike.

The union represents 4,000 teachers and has been bargaining with Portland Public Schools since June.

Teachers say that they're overwhelmed with their workload and what they say is a lack of support in the classroom.

Teachers would like smaller class sizes that would both help them as well as their students.

The other concern is pay. Teachers want their salaries to keep up with the rising cost of living in Portland. The union says the base salary starts at $50,000.

In June, Oregon passed a record $10.2 billion K-12 budget. The school district says the union's proposal would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and lead to staffing cuts. 

"We want people to work for us," said Guadalupe Guerrero, superintendent of the Portland Public Schools, at a conference on Wednesday. "But unlike a private organization, we don't have record profits we can tap into. And I also want to dwell on this point, because some folks are inclined to compare this strike to the autoworkers, or the screenwriters and actors."

"Folks, we're not funded in the same way. No one gets multi million dollar stock options from a school district. There's no record profits. All we have is inadequate funding from the state, while working to produce improved outcomes and opportunities for our students," Guerrero said.

SEE MORE: UAW announces contract deal with Ford, marking major strike progress

This is one strike in a series of high-profile strikes in public schools across the West Coast this year.

In Los Angeles, teacher's aides, custodians and cafeteria workers walked off the job in March, demanding higher wages and more staffing. School was shut down for 3 days for half a million students.

In Oakland, California, the union representing teachers went on strike for more than a week in May.

They pushed for high salaries, reparations for black students and resources for homeless students.

The district and teachers union in Portland will meet again Friday for continued negotiations.

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