More than 40,000 Oregon students returned to classes Monday for the first time this month as Portland teachers ended the longest U.S. teachers strike in 2023.
Over the weekend, Portland Public Schools (PPS), the largest school district in the state, reached a tentative agreement to end the more than three-week strike that started on Nov. 1. However, the $175 million contract agreement still needs to be approved by the union as classes resume.
“This contract is a watershed moment for Portland students, families, and educators,” Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) President Angela Bonilla said in a statement to ABC News. “Educators walked picket lines alongside families, students, and allies — and because of that, our schools are getting the added investment they need,” Bonilla added.
Veteran teacher Tiffany Koyama Lane was swarmed by her third grade students and parents when she returned to Sunnyside Environmental School today.
“I walked out this morning – as did every other teacher at my school – and like, the families and kids cheered and started crying and like, tackled me in like one giant group hug,” Koyama Lane told ABC News. “The magnitude of the community showing up so strongly. That’s something that I’m still sitting with and processing – like it was – it was really beautiful.”
The city’s first-ever strike lasted 11 instructional days when factoring in weekends and holidays. After months of negotiations, Portland’s nearly 4,000 educators received “key wins” for mental health support, smaller class sizes and cost of living compensation increases, according to the statement.
Oregon Education Association (OEA) President Reed Scott-Schwalbach called the tentative agreement “historic.”
“This is a transformative deal that will improve the lives of students in Portland and have far-reaching positive effects for our students across the rest of the state,” Scott-Schwalbach wrote.
In recent strikes across the nation, teachers have demanded fair wages and called attention to other grievances included in the negotiations, like guaranteed planning time. Many teachers have said their prep periods were stripped from them due to a massive teaching shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Portland’s teachers also agreed to a roughly 14% overall pay raise over three years, $20 million dollars for classroom renovations and a first-ever contract article dedicated to special education.
Posting to X (formally known as Twitter), Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, said post-pandemic teaching remains a challenge as more students have greater academic and social needs. The proposed agreement “fairly compensates PPS teachers and gives them the resources and support they need to provide their students with a path to success,” Bonamici added.
Students and teachers will make up the missed class time over winter break and throughout the new year.