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Published on February 23, 2024
Teachers Edge Closer to Strike in Salem-Keizer District Amid Contract Negotiation ImpasseSource: Google Street View

Tensions are at a boiling point within the Salem-Keizer School District as teachers edge closer to a strike following a declared impasse in contract negotiations. According to KGW, the Salem-Keizer Education Association (SKEA) has submitted what it deems its "best and final" offer to the district after ten months of bargaining.

The core issues at the center of the conflict include disagreements on teacher workloads and schedules, which the union believes could lead to sudden changes to educators' schedules and, in some cases, effectively reduce full-time positions to part-time status. SKEA president Tyler Scialo-Lakeberg stated, "They could make us work 12 (pm to) 8 (pm) one day, 8 (am) to 4 (pm) the next."

The Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that union leaders are concerned that "students and staff cannot persist under the status quo."

Superintendent Andrea Castañeda cited budgetary constraints as primary hurdles. During an interview with KGW, she expressed a desire to avoid making teachers part-time employees and highlighted the complexity of educator schedules, which need to maintain flexibility for events such as parent-teacher conferences. Castañeda explained, "And when we shared that offer, we were clear. We said, 'This is all we can do. Anything more will do lasting harm to our schools,' The district is also struggling with a budget gap of over $30 million, further complicating matters.

While the union's final offer includes plans for a district-wide committee on class size solutions, the district contends that the financial realities make fulfilling the union's request unfeasible. Castañeda pointed out that their last offer, according to Keizertimes, was worth $37 million and included increased insurance benefits and the largest year-over-year increases in memory. With no agreement in sight and mediation sessions on the horizon, the possibility of a strike looms large, a scenario that could see classrooms across the district shuttered come April.