Portland Teachers Strike & Education Funding

How do Oregonians feel about the Portland Teacher’s Strike in December? What are ways we can address education funding statewide?

From December 19th, 2023 – January 7th, 2024, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs on the topics of education funding and the Portland teachers’ strike. This memo summarizes key findings.   

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire and tabs. Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add up to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs. 

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroup variations for age, gender, area of the state, BIPOC/white, etc. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions. 

OVBC surveys currently use aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability. 

For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying documents: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet (upon request). 

Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (OVBC): This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute. 

Portland Teachers’ Strike

  • The recent Portland teachers’ strike garnered significant media attention at both the local and statewide levels. When asked about several groups and public figures associated with the strike, or those playing a role in education policy, and whether the strike influenced Oregonians’ perceptions of those entities, respondents generally indicate that the strike had a negative impact on their opinions. The sole exception to this trend is with Portland school teachers, who are viewed slightly more positively following the strike (Q30).  
    • Portland school teachers: 22% more positive vs. 20% more negative = +2 points more positive.  
      • Portland residents say the strike made them view local teachers more positively at a higher rate (29%) than the overall survey average.  
    • State Teachers Union (OEA): 16% more positive vs. 24% more negative = -8 points.  
    • Governor Tina Kotek: 12% more positive vs. 22% more negative = -10 points.  
    • Oregon Legislature: 8% more positive vs. 21% more negative = -13 points.  
    • Portland School Board (i.e., school district): 10% more positive vs. 28% more negative = -18 points.  
      • Portland residents give notably higher negative scores (37%).  
    • It should be noted that a plurality of statewide Oregonians said that the strike did not change their opinions of any of the polled groups or individuals. This is perhaps because those outside the Portland area were less likely to be impacted directly and did not follow the strike as closely, as indicated by their higher no opinion/don’t know responses. 

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  • When given the opportunity to weigh in open-ended on the groups and individuals above, opinions vary, mirroring the statistical findings. Many respondents who voice support for teachers or the teachers’ union mention the difficulties of being a public school teacher and inadequacies in the education system. On the other hand, those who voice opposition to the strike cite negative perceptions of unions in general and adverse effects on students. Many respondents outside of the Portland area say they did not follow the teachers’ strike or do not have strong opinions on the matter. Below are some representative quotes (Q31).   

“The courage teachers (and parents and students) showed in highlighting the major issues in our educational system through this strike is commendable. We need to help our educators and students.” 

Woman, age 65-74, Deschutes County, White 

“I think it was awful for the teachers to stay out so long, they should be able to negotiate without penalizing the students so severely.”  

Woman, age 65-74, Marion County, White

“We as a community should put front line workers first and that includes teachers, and they should be receiving more pay to teach our future.” 

Male, age 30-44, Clackamas County, Native American 

“There’s enough money and funding in the state to cover education costs. The problem is management and priorities set by the Governor and the legislature.” 

Man, age 30-44, Multnomah County, Hispanic and/or Latino/x 

  • After the outcome of the PPS teachers’ strike (a wage increase for teachers and the creation of committees to oversee class sizes), seven in ten Oregonians (68%) say the strike could have been avoided and a settlement reached with a different approach to bargaining (Q32). That 68% is comprised of:  
    • 20% who say the school district should have taken a different approach, 
    • 11% who say the teachers’ union should have taken a different approach, 
    • 37% who say both the school district and the teachers’ union should have taken a different approach. 
    • Notably, just slightly more than one in ten Oregonians (13%) say the strike could not have been avoided. This number was similar among Portland residents (16%).  
    • Oregonians with kids in public schools showed little difference in opinion compared to other respondents, with a plurality of parents (45%) saying both the school district and the teachers’ union should have taken a different approach. 

Education Funding

  • Oregonians are largely split on whether the Oregon legislature should assume more authority over how local school districts budget their funds and bargain with their teachers, with a slight lean towards opposing such changes (Q33).  
    • Budgeting: 39% support vs. 43% oppose 
    • Bargaining: 38% support vs. 44% oppose 
    • Support for giving the legislature more authority over how local school districts both budget their funds and bargain with their teachers is higher among those with kids in public schools compared to those without.  
    • Opposition to both changes tended to increase with age, higher levels of education, and higher incomes.  

  • Provided the chance to share open-ended reflections on school funding, respondents repeatedly touch on several key themes, including overall support for teachers and the importance of adequately funding schools; support for local control; concerns about student performance; and proposed revenue fixes. Below are some representative quotes (Q34). 

“Teachers have a very tough job and literally hold our futures in their hands. We should strive to take better care of them, so they can properly take care of our children.” 

Woman, age 45-54, Wheeler County, White  

“Local districts should have the maximum say over funds and bargaining. Parents should be empowered to place their children in schools of their own choosing. This would ultimately increase quality everywhere over time. Vouchers might be a good idea here.”

Man, age 65-74, Polk County, White 

“The state legislature can’t possibly be mindful of all the local and school-specific factors that affect budgeting. For that reason, I’m very wary of taking budget control away from individual schools and districts. However, school boards can be politically biased, and their ability to use the budget to disadvantage minorities should be curtailed.” 

Non-binary or gender non-confirming, age 30-44, Marion County, White 

“The legislature needs to better fund schools. They need to fix Measure 5, Measure 50, and the kicker. Other states don’t box themselves in on revenue and school funding like we do. We can do better.” 

Man, age 30-44, Multnomah County, White 

“This is a complex issue. We have approved additional funding for schools through various mechanisms, and yet Oregon continues to have one of the worst performing K-12 systems in the U.S. While money is important, there are many factors at play, and we need to better understand why our school systems are performing so poorly.”  

Man, age 55-64, Deschutes County, White 

“Teachers need to be paid more, they are essentially raising our children.” 

Woman, age 18-29, Multnomah County, Asian  

  • Eight in ten (81%) Oregonians believe school districts should be required to achieve outcomes for students like reading proficiently by the end of third grade, with 49% indicating they strongly support such requirements (Q35).  
    • Overall support (strongly/somewhat) is higher than 70% across all major demographic subgroups, including gender, age, income, race/ethnicity, education, area of state, and political affiliation.  
    • 78% of Oregonians with kids in public schools support such requirements, compared to 87% of those without kids in public schools, a notably high percentage for both groups.  

Source: OVBC survey conducted December 19th 2023 – January 7th 2024, among Oregon adults (representative sample, N = 1,807) 
  • Lastly, when invited to share their open-ended thoughts on education in Oregon, a significant portion of responses centered around standardized testing and performance metrics, both in support and in opposition. Below are some representative quotes (Q36): 

“Intelligence is relative, and every person has their individual strengths and weaknesses. It’s unfair to the teachers and the students to implement blanket metrics and goals for the students to achieve by a certain date when each person and situation is as unique as a snowflake.” 

Woman, age 18-29, Washington County, Hispanic and/or Latina/x 

“You don’t raise or maintain the level of education by lowering or eliminating the minimum basic standards; you do a great disservice to the students who need tools to live the rest of their lives.” 

Man, age 65-74, Marion County, White 

“Kids learn at different rates – the whole problem with trying to standardize education is that kids are not standardized. Too many outside factors are involved when it comes to how much or how quickly children learn.” 

Woman, age 55-64, Benton County, White

“As a teacher, my experience has caused me to conclude that student outcomes are predominantly the product of the culture of their home (or lack thereof). Elementary and secondary teachers do what they can with what they have, but they cannot possibly overcome the influence of the home.” 

Man, age 30-44, Josephine County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native  

“Oregon has low standards compared to many states. We need to increase those standards while supplying the staffing necessary to help all students achieve them to their best potential.” 

Woman, age 65-74, Washington County, White 

Summation Quotes

Amaury Vogel, Associate Executive Director: 

  • “For many Oregonians, the Portland teachers’ strike did not change their opinions of the groups and individuals involved. However, shifts in opinion are more likely to skew negative than positive, with one exception: only Portland school teachers saw a slight yet overall positive change in people’s perceptions of them. What’s even more noteworthy is that Portland residents demonstrate a greater net-positive change in their opinions of schoolteachers, despite facing challenges such as childcare and workforce disruptions, worries about students falling further behind after pandemic-related learning losses, and last-minute changes to the school calendar after the strike ended.” 
  • “About seven in ten Oregonians say the strike could have been avoided and a settlement reached if there had been a different approach to bargaining by the union, the district, or both. Only 13% say the strike was unavoidable.” 
  • “Oregonians are split as to whether the Oregon legislature should assume more authority over how school districts budget their funds and bargain with their teachers but lean slightly toward opposing these ideas. While there is grave concern about the consequences of lost learning time, people also value local control for empowering a school district to address the specific needs and priorities its community.” 
  • “Oregonians value education and want to ensure students receive the education they need in order to be successful. Eight in ten Oregonians believe school districts should be required to achieve outcomes for students, like reading proficiently by the end of third grade, including more than 70% across all major demographic subgroups, such as gender, age, income, race/ethnicity, education, area of state, and political affiliation.”  

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,807 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 10 minutes to complete. This is a sufficient sample size to assess Oregonians’ opinions generally and to review findings by multiple subgroups. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data was weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education. 

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample is ±2.30%. Due to rounding or multiple-answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.

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