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  • 21 Oct 2014

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Our Opinion: PPS, union must stop playing chicken

The Portland Public Schools board and the Portland Association of Teachers continue to play chicken with the education of Portland’s students.

Association members’ Wednesday evening vote could mean a strike is on PPS’ horizon. Despite continued negotiations, teachers and the school board appear to be content to hurtle headlong toward each other in the hopes that the other will swerve first. Once the union receives the necessary support, teachers could go on strike 10 days later. If a strike does happen, it will be the first in the history of Portland Public Schools.

Both sides have agreed to meet with the mediator on Sunday, Feb. 9, which is a positive sign, but the public is increasingly dismayed that it has come to this after nearly an entire year of negotiations. Both sides are still at odds on the biggest issues, including salary, work load, class sizes and the length of the school year.

While there are 2,900 teachers whose jobs are affected by these negotiations, that number pales in comparison with the 48,000 students who will be affected should a strike take place.

If you consider the recently released cohort graduation rates for the state of Oregon, our students and teachers can use all the time they can get in the classroom.

Portland’s four-year graduation rate was 63.09 percent for the cohort of students who graduated in 2012. The rate increased 4 percent in 2013 — a far cry from what will be needed to fulfill the governor’s 40-40-20 mandate that calls for a 100 percent high school graduation rate by 2025.

We’ve said it before, but it bears saying again. PPS administrators and teachers must find a way to bridge the remaining chasm in negotiations, and they must do so without delay.

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray famously plays chicken with a train and utters the words, “I’m betting he’s going to swerve first.”

With PPS administrators and the PAT, it’s beginning to look as if both sides are on the same track — just in oncoming trains and each betting the other will swerve first.