PPS says teachers could lose active health insurance as strike continues Thursday

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 10:45 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - As the Portland teachers strike cancels another day of school, time is also ticking on the deadline to ensure teachers are able to keep their current health benefits. City and state lawmakers are also weighing in on the strike.

Classes are already canceled again for Thursday, and if teachers aren’t back in class by the Thursday deadline, they will lose their existing health coverage at the end of the month.

“Our teachers deserve more,” Susheela Jayapal, (D) Candidate, Oregon’s 3rd U.S. District, and parent of former Portland Public Schools (PPS) students, said.

See Also: Strike continues Monday after Portland district, teachers fail to reach agreement over weekend

Local labor leaders and students rallied Wednesday standing in solidarity with teachers as they strike for a third week.

“I’ve been waking up at seven every morning and picketing with my teachers,” Calliope Ruskin, a 12th grade student, said.

The Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) said its latest proposal, presented late Tuesday, would close the gap by over $120 million over a three-year agreement period.

PPS said its estimate on how much the union’s latest proposal would reduce costs is much different.

“We took a careful read of their proposal. We had our budget and finance team give it a careful analysis. In fact, we determined it represented about a $30 million package of value,” said Guadalupe Guerrero, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools.

PAT points to their conclusion mainly coming from an estimate that it would cost roughly $6 million to meet their modified request on class sizes. The district said to meet PAT’s demands on class size caps, they would need 352 new staff, which would cost roughly $100 million. And that the union’s estimate would only account for 37 new staff members.

Another issue if teachers aren’t back in the classroom on Thursday, the district said teachers will not be eligible for active health insurance starting December 1st, and that’s because teachers will have worked less than half the days they’re contracted for in the month of November.

Instead, the district said teachers will have to apply for COBRA insurance, and the Oregon Education Association has already committed to covering that cost for striking members, if necessary.

See Also: PPS students rally to support teachers, explore new activities as strike continues

Also, on Wednesday, the City of Portland announced that to help bridge the gap, Commissioner Carmen Rubio and Mayor Ted Wheeler said they are planning to fast track the timeline to deploy nearly $20 million of existing investments to improve infrastructure for Portland schools.

State lawmakers also chimed in on this debate, three Republican Representatives announced they will pursue legislation to bar teachers unions from walking out on school days.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday.