Pat Boyle contributed to this story
PORTLAND — Parents and students gathered Wednesday outside Portland Public Schools district headquarters on North Dixon to support teachers in their quest for a new contract. With chants and signs the group demanded that PPS return to the negotiating table with the teacher’s union. Earlier this month the district declared an impasse in their ongoing contract dispute with teachers, setting in motion the possibility of a strike after the Christmas holiday.
Most parents aimed their frustration at the district over cuts to school days and programs, the closure of a number of schools over the past several years, and the demand that teachers pay more of their own healthcare costs.
Parent Betsy Tam Salter says “The School Board risks forcing a strike by not talking about issues like class size. Forcing high school teachers to grade and teach more than 180 students? That’s impossible. Twenty eight children in kindergarten classes? How can they get the attention they need?” Salter continued, “As a parent I want my child to learn and be successful. If a teacher is overworked and a classroom is crowded, learning is not going to happen.”
Spokesperson for the Parents Stand with Portland Teachers group Chris Lowe said, “Our message to the School Board is simple: Listen to parents. Don’t force a strike. Drop your “final offer” and negotiate everything.
“We see the teachers we know and trust wanting to bargain over the classroom conditions our children experience. We see the District focusing instead on management rights, and refusing to bargain the issues that matter most. We call on the School Board to change that attitude, and settle a good contract that protects students learning conditions by protecting their teachers’ working conditions.”