(Updating: adding video and comments from Breese-Iverson)
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – State Reps. Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, and two colleagues say they will introduce legislation next session to bar Oregon teacher unions from walking off the job on school days. We talked with her Monday about what led to the planned action.
Breese-Iverson said Oregon students are all too familiar with school closures and learning losses.
"In Portland, union bosses are using nearly 44,000 students as bargaining chips in their negotiations, causing irreparable harm to Portland families," she said in the announcement. "Portland Public Schools are the gold standard for how not to run a school district, despite record investments from the state. It is time they be held accountable.”
We talked Monday with Breese-Iverson about her reasons for proposing the legislation, which she expects to introduce Jan. 17, ahead of the February "short session."
“I think successful negotiations puts teachers back in the classroom, and students back on track,” the lawmaker said.
"What we really need is not more legislation, but more about the kids. We need this to be about kids learning, getting through their school experience and having the well-rounded education and emotional support that they need, and we expect as parents, during the school year."
“Interesting point on the dollars is how much goes to the teachers vs. how much goes to the administration,” she said. “And what we are seeing right now in the Portland school district is how not to do it. They spend more percentage-wise than the other districts around the state on administrative (costs).”
Classroom sizes and curriculum freedom are common challenges in negotiations around the state.
Breese-Iverson points to Crook County as a positive example and supports voters’ recent major change in the school board makeup.
“Crook County did some adjustments in the school board, to the point where our community is pushing and supporting our school district in a way that we're seeing increased number of kids in Prineville, in Crook County schools, while we're watching other students or their districts start to see decreases this year,” she said. “That's because we're doing something right.”
More from last week's news release:
“I am saddened for the students whose school districts are run by far-left activists repeatedly putting politics first and students last. Teacher unions hold tremendous power, but instead of using it to prioritize the needs of students, they are making themselves part of the problem rather than the solution,” Representative Cate (R-Lebanon) added.
“Working parents and students are hurting right now. The teacher union and PPS had all summer to negotiate before school was in session. Instead, parents have had to find ways to support their children during the eight hours per day they should be in school for nearly two weeks,” said Goodwin (R-Canyonville).
The lawmakers said they are exploring ways they can compel the teachers back into the classroom with minimal harm on students, while allowing the two sides to negotiate.
“Teacher unions must stop using vulnerable students as pawns in a political game,” Goodwin concluded.