Parents emerge as ‘third force’ in Portland teachers strike



Students and parents are joining Portland teachers on strike picket lines throughout the district — because they support what teachers are fighting for, including class size caps and the right to refuse work in unsanitary conditions. Class size in particular is a top concern for parents.

Maya Pueo von Geldern, a mom at Vernon K-8 school, said there are fifth grade classes there with 35 kids, leaving teachers doing crowd control rather than focused learning. She also provided photo evidence of ongoing rat infestations inside classrooms. One of Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) bargaining demands is for Portland Public Schools to deal with its rodent problem.

Von Geldern said kids are enjoying the pickets, and particularly the supportive honks from firefighters, delivery drivers and garbage truck drivers. Parents are organizing to drive kids to strike picket lines if they want to attend.

Parents are also working behind the scenes to support each other with child care, an immediate concern with schools shuttered.

Elinor Jones, a parent at Vestal Elementary School, began swapping child care with other parents based on work availability.

“People are really rallying and doing everything that we can to keep our kids happy while supporting the strike,” Jones told the Labor Press.

“They’re fighting not just for themselves, but for our kids,” said Chris Zimmerly-Beck, a parent at Duniway Elementary who has been active in strike support.

Direct parent involvement in strike support is no accident. PAT started communicating about its agenda many months ago with parents who are active in PTAs and in school activities. One teacher went on leave to work for the union to build relationships with parents. Months before the strike, dozens of parents were attending meetings at PAT headquarters.

That preparation may be one reason strike picket lines are seeing large numbers of parent and student supporters.


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