The Portland Public School District released the following statement Thursday night:
Talks between Portland Public Schools (PPS) and the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) ended Thursday evening without an agreement on a new contract for Portland’s 2,900 educators. Key stumbling blocks in the talks remain: a longer school year for students, salary increases for teachers, and early retirement benefits.
Superintendent Carole Smith said, “We have had intensive talks that have generated movement on many issues, from teacher hiring to work load relief. We addressed the issues the Association told us were their top priorities: workload and health care. We believed we were getting close to an agreement, but we are disappointed that we are now seeing a widening gap. Tonight we informed the Association that we are not able to move beyond the frameworks that had us close to a settlement last week.”
School district’s settlement proposal
Portland Public Schools negotiators have offered a 3-year contract offer, based on frameworks the PPS and PAT teams discussed during round-the-clock mediation talks, which would:
• Reduce class sizes and work load: The school district agrees to maintain a workload limit in the contract. PPS also commits to hire 88 additional elementary, middle grade and high school teachers for the 2014-15 school year, a 4.6 percent reduction in teacher work load based on PAT’s work load calculation methodology.
The school district would commit PPS’ entire $7.8 million share of the funds legislators added to the K-12 budget in the recent special session to hiring PAT-represented educators. The legislature designated these funds to be used to add school days and hire school staff, including teachers. Further increases to school staff would be included as part of the regular annual budget process, and not defined in a labor contract with one employee group.
• Add school days for students: The school district’s offer adds two instructional days for K-8 students and three for high school students (resulting in a 1-percent pay raise for teachers and school staff from the additional days.)
• Improved teacher hiring and retention: Shift PPS hiring practices to one round of internal hiring and incorporates competence as a factor in teacher assignment and lay-off.
The school district’s offer also provides sustainable compensation and benefits to teachers, which give PPS better ability to maintain financial stability and continue to reduce class sizes by hiring more teachers.
• Salary increase: A 2 percent cost-of-living increase in each of the three years of the proposed contract, plus an additional 1 percent increase to compensate teachers for added school days. In total, teachers would receive between 7 percent to 17 percent salary increases, depending on whether they receive seniority increases.
• Health insurance: Maintain current insurance provision of 93 percent contribution from PPS and 7 percent contribution from PAT members.
• Early retirement: Sunset early retirement benefits at the end of the 2015-16 school year, but maintain eligibility for the $425 a month early retirement stipend for employees who have 15 years or more of service, and progressive reductions in the length of time retiring employees could receive insurance payments.
Superintendent Smith said, “We have offered a fair and responsive proposal, which reduces class sizes and teacher work load within the funding we have available. It’s time for us to reach a settlement and turn our attention back toward serving our students and families.”
The school district is awaiting a further proposal from PAT. The mediator recommended that the parties not meet without her. No further talks have been scheduled yet.