Education | Local

Q&A: Details Of The PPS Teacher Contract

OPB | Feb. 24, 2014 5:05 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 25, 2014 6:17 a.m.

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The 85-page agreement that averted what would have been a first-ever teachers’ strike in Oregon’s largest district is now before Portland teachers. Building-level representatives of Portland Association of Teachers learned details of the tentative agreement at a Monday meeting. They’ll share the contents of the contract Tuesday with rank-and-file teachers, in advance of a ratification vote, due to be finished Thursday night.
 
OPB’s education reporter, Rob Manning, got early access to the agreement from the teachers union and analyzed the contract.
 
1.) What are the biggest changes in the contract?
 
There are changes on nearly every page of this 85-page contract. But some of the biggest are:

  • From the union’s standpoint, the biggest gain is the addition of 150 teaching staff. That’s 50 more at high schools, 70 more in elementary and middle grades, and 30 more in special education.
  • One of the parts that the school district had as a big priority was to phase out the early retirement incentives currently offered to teachers. Right now, it offers teachers who are eligible for retirement - but aren’t 65 yet, and therefore can’t qualify for Medicare - five years of health insurance and a monthly stipend. Under this agreement - teachers who have less than 15 years of experience by fall 2016 won’t be able to get early retirement when they get older. 
  • The school district really wanted to extend the school year, and they’ve basically done that. But the Portland Association of Teachers got its way - that the longer school year would be scaled back if there are budget cuts, before staff would be laid off.  It works like this: there’s a “standard” calendar that’s the same length as the current school year. There’s an “extended” calendar in teh contract, too, which adds two days to the year for the whole district, and could add another three days for “focus” and “priority” schools - those are schools that have been labeled that way due to their low test scores.

 
3.) What happens now?
 
Union leaders are briefing building representatives. Those reps will then go back to their buildings and brief teachers Tuesday. Because this is so complex an agreement, the union is also offering meetings Wednesday, for teachers to visit the union office and ask questions. Then the vote will be final on Thursday night. The school board votes on Monday night.
 
PAT president Gwen Sullivan earlier today says the agreement reflects concessions and improvements for her members. Her view is that their bottom line goal of improving things for students was accomplished. “It’s important to know that this contract was all about making things better on the ground,” says Sullivan.  “And that - after we get finished with ratifying this contract - it’s far from over. It’s a first step into making things better on the ground, in the classroom.”
 
4.) What about the district’s view?
 
They’re not speaking on the record at this point, because they agreed not to until the deal is ratified.
 
Neither side wanted a strike, so I think on that score, they’re both happy. But both side wanted more, and both had to give in.

To compare what each side originally wanted with the details of the tentative agreement, view this chart

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