December 16, 2013

Joint Statement on Portland 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.


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


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