Nov 9, 2023 - News

How parents are handling the Portland teachers strike

Teachers and supporters hold strike signs on a street corner.

Portland Public Schools teachers and supporters rally on NE 33rd and Killingsworth on Wednesday morning. Photo: Emily Harris/Axios

With classrooms in Portland Public Schools now shuttered for a week due to the teachers' strike, parents say they're making do but don't like the uncertainty.

Why it matters: The longer the strike goes on, the more it disrupts the lives of both school-aged kids and their parents and guardians.

Catch up quick: On Wednesday, the Portland Association of Teachers and Portland Public School management worked separately to refine proposals after several days of negotiations.

  • Union and district representatives are scheduled to return to the bargaining table in person on Thursday, with a mediator from the state Employee Relations Board.

What's happening: Some parents are joining the picket lines, bringing their children with them.

  • Lara Rouse, on a NE Portland march Wednesday morning, said her second-grader — walking with her — wanted to "show up every day" for the teachers.

What they're saying: Rouse tells Axios that even though she doesn't need outside daycare and supports the teachers' union, the strike's unpredictability has been disruptive for her daughter.

  • "I don't know what to tell her. I don't know when school will start again."

Meanwhile, Wil Magness, kicking a soccer ball with his kindergartener on a deserted middle school field, said adjusting to closed schools has "been pretty rough."

  • He says the family is still paying for school aftercare even though it's not operating "because we don't want to lose our spots."
  • He and his wife have returned to working from home, and are hiring a sitter in the afternoon so they can focus on work.

Yes but: Magness says he supports the teachers' union and the strike and is "willing to keep it up as long as it takes for them to get what they need."

  • Brenna McGee, watching three children in addition to her own at one of Wednesday's rallies, said that among her circles, parents are supporting teachers and are "really angry at the district."
  • The Portland Association of Teachers says parents and others have sent 60,000 emails to the school board in support of the union.

The other side: "Parents are critical partners in educating our students — they bring a unique perspective about their students' needs that we need to hear," Dr. Renard Adams, a member of the district's bargaining team, told Axios in a statement.

  • But PPS has to weigh that perspective alongside other perspectives and limitations, the statement said.

Separately, some community organizations have scrambled to help with childcare options.

A schedule of activities for children taped to plexiglas.
Portland's Northeast Community Center has added one school-day activity for kids during the teachers' strike. Photo: Emily Harris/Axios
  • The Northeast Community Center in Hollywood is offering an open gym for 15 kids and spots filled up fast, said operations manager Elizabeth Hill.
  • "Parents are looking for things for their kids to do, to get their energy out, and to have some social time," she tells Axios.

The intrigue: The center can't offer more because finding staff on short notice was difficult, and they have other daytime programming that they "couldn't just cancel," Hill said.


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