One of the season's labor conflagrations has been extinguished.
In a late-night bargaining session ending this morning, a union representing nearly 4,500 employees at Oregon's public universities worked out a deal with administrators, it announced today, averting the possibility of a strike next week.
The Service Employees International Union Local 503 says the Oregon University System (OUS) met its demands part way—largely reinstating worker's yearly step raises and agreeing to cost-of-living increases of 1.5 and 2 percent over the two-year life of the contract. The union had been pushing for 2.5 percent increases.
"We moved everybody forward," said Marc Nisenfeld, a Portland State University development engineer who chairs the union's bargaining team. He had not been to bed since reaching the agreement at around 2:30 am.
The union had threatened to begin a strike on Monday—the first day of fall courses—if the contract wasn't hammered out. That won't happen, but it's likely similar impasses will mark contract negotiations well into the future. This was the second consecutive round of negotiations where the SEIU threatened to strike.
One big reason: The state's seven public universities have seen stark disinvestment in recent decades, meaning workers' expectations that they receive annual pay bumps are harder to satisfy. The portion of the state's general fund being kicked to public higher education reached a record low in the 2011-2013 budget. At the same time, the system's serving more students than ever. Enrollment has swelled by around 30,000 per year since 2000, and many of the costs have been passed on in the form of tuition.
The SEIU has long pointed to the salaries of university presidents and other administrators as fat to trim. Presidents pull in anywhere from $195,000 to more than $440,000 in taxpayer dollars each year, with some getting additional money from private university foundations. At the same time, some SEIU members qualify for food stamps. As I've pointed out, the OUS even expressed concerns during this year's negotiations about a union-proposed "wage floor" saying it "may result in loss of other valuable assistance, such as food stamp eligibility, or housing and child care subsidies."
By the way, if you're the type who likes the spectacle of union/employer acrimony, don't fret! Contentious contract negotiations at Portland Public Schools, Trimet, and the Portland Police Bureau are ongoing.
Nearly 700 Portland State University employees, as well as thousands of their counterparts throughout the state, have given notice they intend to strike later this month, a move that would effectively grind the Oregon University System to a halt.
In votes this week, members of the Service Employees International Union "overwhelmingly" signaled a willingness to abandon their posts if raises and other provisions aren't re-instituted in their next two-year contract.
"If things don't change, our intention is to walk of the job on Monday, September 23rd," said Marc Nisenfeld, chair of the bargaining team for SEIU Local 503. The union's been trying to reach agreement on a contract since February, but late last month declared an impasse.
There are myriad issues at play, but of particular concern, Nisenfeld said, were suggestions by the university system to award employees with partial year-to-year "step raises"—yearly bumps many employees receive until their salaries max out. The raises were frozen in recent years, as challenging financial times befell Oregon's public universities.
"People are counting on this," Nisenfeld said. "Now they want them to take half steps. It's just completely unfair."
By law, the SEIU is required to give 10 days' notice before a planned strike. The union plans to hold talks with administration officials on Friday and Saturday at Oregon State University, Nisenfeld said.
SEIU represents roughly 668 employees at Portland State—including many clerical jobs, IT and AV workers, public safety and facilities staff, and more. Nearly 4,500 public university workers statewide fall under the union's banner.
"The people who are the infrastructure of the university," Nisenfeld said.
The last time the union actually walked off the job was 1995, he said. It gave notice it would strike in September 2001, but pulled it after the September 11 attacks and eventually reached an agreement.
I spoke with Nisenfeld after 7 pm, and haven't reached anyone with university system administration.
Portland State University last week gave some of its students surprising, if perhaps welcome, news: No school this summer.
In the middle of exam week, mere weeks before summer courses were set to commence, the university sent out e-mails to students enrolled in a number of classes, saying they'd been cancelled due to "budget constraints beyond our control."
But people affected by the cancelations are wondering how that pencils out.
"All these courses were beyond capacity," said Greg Twiss, a pre-med student who'd counted on taking an Introduction to Genetics course this summer. "There were already three people on the wait list for it. What's the budget cut logic there?"
According to an email he received June 10 from the PSU biology department, Twiss' best bet to take the course is now to enroll this fall.
"Due to budgetary constraints beyond our control all sections of this course, as well as the associated recitations, are being cancelled for summer 2013," the e-mail says. "We apologize for the inconvenience this will undoubtedly cause, and recognize that this is a truly unfortunate situation for all. BI 341 Genetics will be offered during Fall term 2013."
That's a message Twiss was surprised to receive weeks before the class was set to begin.
"They opened registration for these course months ago," he said. "If they were gonna make a policy decision to make these changes, it would have between great to know sooner."
The cancellations apparently go well beyond Twiss' genetics course, but university staff has been unresponsive to my calls so far today.
PSU Adjunct Professor Carey Booth, who's sounding the alarm on the cancellations, says they appear to be aimed at saving money on outside staff—Booth is a lab instructor at Reed College, and only teaches at PSU during the summer.
"They won't explain to me or (Biology Department Chairman Jason Podrabsky): What is their logic?" Booth says. "How do they pencil this out?"
According to her own calculations, which Booth concedes are simplistic, the university stands to make something like $40,000 from her classes alone this summer. Here's her logic.
More on this when (if) the university decides to call me back.
UPDATE, 3:06 pm: Documents available to PSU students indicate the university is also slashing more than half of its summer economics offerings. According to this list [PDF], PSU had 17 summer courses in economics listed as of Monday.
Today, according to a screenshot Twiss sent, that list has been pared down to eight.
Acclaimed jazz trumpeter and Artistic Director of the programme Thara Memory said: "The promoter [of Prince’s Portland gigs] is a longtime friend of mine and he told Prince about the programme. Prince was looking for something to give some money to anyway, and that’s how it came about."Tickets for the two Portland shows were $175 for floor seats—substantially cheaper than tickets for Prince's shows in other markets like Seattle and San Francisco. Assigned balcony seating were $300. I believe there were several day-of-show tickets that went on sale for $100, and those may have been the tickets that, at least in part, went to fund the AMP's Pacific Jazz Orchestra's trip.
The Oregon House Representatives this morning said okay to a bill that requires all schools in the state to allow time—every day—for the Pledge of Allegiance.
HB 3014 requires all Oregon classrooms, including public charter schools “to provide time for students to salute flag once daily during school hours.” School districts would also have to pay to procure flags—“of suitable size”—for every classroom.
The bill’s chief sponsor Representative Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, says the pledge is currently recited once a week, which he's decided isn't enough.
Groups like the ACLU of Oregon are opposed to the measure. In written testimony, legislative director Becky Straus says “in our view, the bill only serves to heighten existing concerns about the religious freedom implications of the current law.”
But most House reps don’t seem to share that sentiment. The bill’s vote in the House began with lawmakers sharing stories of veterans, and the proposition that reciting the pledge every day allows time to reflect on patriotism. The bill cleared the House 42-16.
Now the measure heads to the Senate where it can expect a vote in the next few weeks. If approved, students would still be able to opt-out, in accordance with a 1943 Supreme Court case. It's unclear what would happen if schools or districts tried to opt out, too.
Orange County school leaders are allowing members of World Changers of Florida to passively distribute Bibles to students Wednesday.... Passive distribution means the group cannot have any contact with students and can't even speak to them. The Bibles will be placed on an unattended table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate outside of class. The students won't face pressure to take one.
And students won't be pressured to pick up a copy of God Is Not Great or Joy of Gay Sex either.
Things are slowly heating up in the campaign around Measure 26, the "Arts Education and Access Fund" ballot measure that aims to restore arts funding in Portland’s six school districts this November. The measure was officially okayed for the ballot on September 4th.
It may come as a surprise that despite Portland's thriving arts and culture scene, Portland schools have a way-below-average number of art classes compared to other school districts nationwide. The question voters need to consider is: The proposed fund will improve arts education in schools, but is it a fair way to fund the arts?
The proposal, put together by School and Arts Together and the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), would charge Portland residents who are over 18 a tax of $35 a year and direct the money to a fund for arts and music programming in elementary schools. People with an income below the federal poverty line are exempt from the tax. If passed, the tax would raise $12.8 million annually for schools' arts and culture programs.
TriMet didn't quite hold up that bargain in its most recent budget, and so Adams decided to get its board's attention. He pitched a surprise plan that called for raising permit fees for TriMet some 8,000 percent—raising $2 million bucks that he'd then hand back to keep the YouthPass program alive.
Adams' gambit worked. Today, during a scheduled council vote on the fee hike, TriMet's board chairman, Bruce Warner, and others showed up and asked for a 30-day window to reopen discussions. They said they couldn't afford the fee increase—without cutting service even further than they already have, they claim—but offered to re-examine the original handshake deal.
TriMet is "still prepared to honor what I thought was a cost-sharing agreement"—a deal that would have split the $3.5 million cost of the program between school districts, TriMet, and the city, Warner told the council. "If the student pass program is really the issue, please defer this entire ordinance for 30 days to allow us to talk through with your staff, and with you, the mayor, how we can come up with a true agreement."
Adams, along with the rest of council, agreed.
"The reason I have felt compelled to be as hardheaded on this as I have been," he said, was because "I didn't see this in the budget. You took the resources [from canceling the free-rail zone] but you didn't do the second part of the handshake agreement. I'm willing to take 30 days and set this over and talk seriously about this."
The fee hike plan won't come back to council until July 25. It's the second big hammer the city threatened to drop today, only to hold back for more discussion. Asked whether this was a day of "delaying action," Randy Leonard told me it was more about using sticks before carrots: "motivating people" to do "problem-solving."
The YouthPass program, as we reported this spring, has long been a source of tension between Adams and TriMet. The program had received most of its funding—$2.55 million—from state energy tax credits, with Portland Public Schools paying the other $1 million. That worked until the state, facing its own budget mess, pulled the plug. When TriMet wanted to cancel the program for the school year that just ended, Adams lobbied them to keep it alive.
Tonight, activists in Portland, many of them affiliated with Occupy Portland, are planning to gather in Pioneer Courthouse Square in (forgive me) solidarité. They're also calling on people all across the city, if they can't make it down, to bang pots wherever they live. Our local event—maybe better described as a burgeoning Occupy-like movement—is aimed at the rising cost of education here, but also at larger questions of debt (as in, crippling student loans) and the privatization of what ought to be a government function (educating its people).
Many of the protests in Quebec have ended violently, with fringe participants, yes, throwing things at cops—but mostly because of riot cops, working at a numbers disadvantage, throwing things like flash grenades, kettling people to make mass arrests, and using their batons. Portland's organizers have sent a letter to Mayor Sam Adams letting him know they're not getting a permit for tonight's protest but asking him not to send in the riot cops to bust it up.
Hit the jump to read it.
I caught up with Leeds for a quick Q & A about Schoolyard Farms a little while back.
MERCURY: What encouraged you and Justin to take the reins of Schoolyard Farms in the first place?
LEEDS: It was more born out of our love and work for urban farms across Portland. And already having the Singer Hill Farms plot on school grounds made it easy to coalesce well with the school.
The program's pretty new. How's it been going so far?
It's been overwhelming! But really good. We have a great support network with the school and the surrounding community. And getting to work with these kids is very exciting. There aren't really other models out there that we're going off of, so we're really learning by doing.
I know this is a bit of an old question, but why is encouraging students to cultivate their own food is important?
Our current food system in the country is not quite working the way it should be. Education is one way of shifting people's views on the system, especially when you start at a young age. At Schoolyard, kids can actually see the process and understand how much work goes into bringing food to the table. Also, neighbors can see what we're doing here and hopefully be inspired to start a garden of their own.
So where does the food you grow at Schoolyard go? To the students?
Well we give five CSA shares out a week to low income families whose children go to Candy Lane, and of course the kids snack as the work. We're hoping that in the future we can actually serve what we grow in the school cafeteria!
And what's being harvested right now?
A lot of lettuce and garlic!
Tomorrow, June 12, Holocene is hosting Schoolyard Farms' first big fundraiser. Swing by to learn more about the inspired project and catch some local bands!
Portland has been selected to be one of the 12 cities targeted by HBO's "Weight of the Nation" show on childhood obesity. One school in particular, James John Elementary, will receive the HBO treatment. Which isn't as fancy as it sounds. Turns out, these kids are going to be rewarded with a salad bar and water tap station (isn't that just called a water fountain?).
HBO representatives, city councillors and school board members will unveil these gifts on May 1 at 10 am at the school. Here's the agenda, according to the press release:
"Following a short speaking program to celebrate the new salad bar and water tap station, all will enjoy a screening of “The Weight of the Nation for Kids”: The Great Cafeteria Takeover, followed by a healthy lunch."
Celebrate the salad bar? I doubt many kids will be pushing each other out of the way to get a heap o' iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. But I can see some serious fireworks going off for the water fountain (which they didn't have before? Is this a problem?).
Jokes aside, I think it's a little weird that Portland of all places is on the list of places needing to combat childhood obesity. Granted, it's an issue everywhere. Not all Portland babies had liquefied flax/spinach/acai berry baby formula.
Catch the show's premiere on Monday, May 14th at 8 pm on HBO.
The show—which also includes performances from Lopez, Nether Regions, and a band of Grant High students called Hell's Parrish—will raise money for basic art supplies like paint, paper, and clay, as well as awareness for the beleaguered, underfunded arts programs in schools. Red Fang's Aaron Beam has this to say:
It is a shame that Grant High's arts are underfunded, and a bit mysterious to me. Young artists looking for cheap venues to create and display their works move to and revitalize cities and neighborhoods. It happens repeatedly. I watched it happen in Portland in the 1990s, with artist communities such as The Lab and The Modern Zoo, and clubs like the X-Ray.It all goes down Friday, May 25 at the Hawthorne Theatre. It's a mere 10 bucks and tickets are on sale here.
Thanks to the internet and, most recently, the controversial documentary Bully, the issue of school bullying has elbowed its way into the national spotlight. And local. The Multnomah Youth Commission, the "official youth policy body" for the city and county, is putting on a first-of-its-kind conference in Portland this weekend: the Rob Ingram Youth Summit Against Violence.
This comes on the heels of MYC's new Youth Against Violence Committee, formed in response to the growing local violence directed towards youth "in the forms of gang, anti-gay and gender, home, school, police, sexual/dating, and cyber-bullying."
The Saturday event starts off with a youth-only portion—asking local kids/teens to get together and brainstorm policy recommendations to later present to local policy makers. Later in the afternoon, invited elected officials (Mayor Sam Adams, Multnomah Board of Commissioners Chair Jeff Cogen and Police Chief Mike Reese) will meet with the 21 and under group to hear their stories and understand how they, and other adults in the community, can help combat youth violence and bullying. Interesting to see what will come from this.
The Blaze—Glenn Beck's news blog—zoomed in on a pair of Portland State University's "controversial" courses today: "Revolutionary Marxism: Theory and Practice“ and ”Art Within Activism.” The author is shocked that good ol' American taxpayers are funding these Marxist courses without providing a political balance. The Marxism course urges student to connect with local groups like Occupy Portland, Jobs for Justice and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights. The author asks: "Would Portland State University allow a 'Limited Government: Theory and Practice' course where students were forced to make a 'connection' with Tea Partiers and the NRA?" The art class is really just that: a course on modern art based off of recent activism pieces and products. WAR!
The dual courses are part of PSU's Chiron Studies program, when students can layout and instruct classes for credit. The post's comment stream are on FIRE, of course, chock full of fist shaking at the education system and that crazy "B. Hussein Obama" and pleading for a McCarthy return.
Here are a few gems:
Great news everyone! The state's on-time high school graduation rate has increased one percent! According to state school Superintendent Susan Castillo, a rise from 66 to 67 percent over a year is something to write home about, calling the results "encouraging."
However, head honcho (read: Governor) John Kitzhaber reacted differently to this news, calling the low rate "unacceptable." A Department of Education study also unveiled a discouraging dropout rate of public high school students, marking one out of every three attendees an eventual high school drop out. This adds up to about 11,000 high school students in this school year.
Like I said, fantastic news.
Thankfully, Kitzhaber has promised to turn these dreary statistics around. Kitzhaber hopes to push the Legislature to require every school district and community college to sign a yearly "achievement compact" spelling out key results it will try to deliver. If singed off, this compact aims to jump start schools across the state in hopes of securing more stable — and uplifting — enrollment results in the future.
I feel obliged to report on this because this man handed me my diploma: Oregon Board of Higher Education decided not to renew the contract of Richard Lariviere, University of Oregon president. To put it nicely, he's fired.
Why? It looks like the man didn't have many supporters in the Oregon University System, let alone Gov. John Kitzhaber, due to his budgetary decision making.
"Dr. Lariviere's actions have done damage to our vision for higher education and other institutions of higher learning; and, ironically, have served to undercut his own aspirations for the University of Oregon," Kitzhaber told the Oregonian.
But his firing didn't go unnoticed. Nearly 60 pro-Lariviere faculty members filed complaint to the
university's state's ethics commission, as the Board of Higher Education apparently publicized their decision prior to a mandatory meeting and vote. Students aren't too pleased either. Last night, a group of upset students decorated OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner's home with eggs, leaving behind an angry letter and the words "The Hat" — Southern gent Lariviere is known for his ever-present fedora, see photo — spray painted on the driveway.
Larievere remains classy in his rejection. On Wednesday, he published a letter to the campus: "I have been heartened by the outpouring of support I have received for the work we are doing to reimagine public higher education in Oregon. While the positive comments from members of the campus community and beyond help to galvanize my commitment to this outstanding institution, I hasten to remind you that this is not about me. We must all redouble our efforts to bring about positive change to the governance, funding and accountability of Oregon’s public universities."
His contract terminates on June 30, 2012.
"There is nothing in this resolution that says there is a condemnation of military service," said board vice chairman Martin Gonzalez, a primary driver behind the new rule. "There is a desire on our part for our students to become more educated in the choices that they are making."
This movement comes just under a year since Portland Schools signed a two-year deal with the Department of Defense to teach forth and fifth grade science — an idea which many argued was disguised military recruitment. While this provides a more level playing field for both sides, I'm sure parents will still rally against the not-so-camouflaged military presence.
An Oregon Court of Appeals panel rejected Oregon University System's ban on guns on its seven state campuses yesterday on the premise that firearm regulation remains solely in the hands of state legislature. Prior to yesterday's ruling, people with firearm permits could not pack their weapon on campus, even if it was clearly concealed. Now, permit-holders can carry their concealed gun all over campus — just as long as they don't brandish it.
This ruling comes partially as a result of a suit filled by the Oregon Firearms Education Foundation over Western Oregon University suspending a gun-toting student who had a permit (which was, in fact, legal).
OUS officials have yet to respond to the decision, but OUS spokeswomen Di Saunders told the Oregonian that they haven't given up the push to eliminate guns — even those carried by permit holders — on campus. One possible solution could be requiring students to sign a waiver promising to not tote their guns in campus buildings, dorms, etc.
"This does not erase all the safety protections we have on campus," says Saunders. "It invalidates one Oregon administrative rule, but it doesn't invalidate our mission to keep students safe."
While the appeal panel deemed the OUS' ban illegal on the state level, it did not mention its potential violation of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment which protects gun rights. Nonetheless, OUS is walking on thin ice.
This ban lift also creates a backdrop for the recent discussions by mayoral candidates about city gun laws.
You can take the test online right here, and our magical computer interface will calculate your answers and spit out a result: your perfect job. It's totally foolproof. (It's also binding, so, you know, fair warning.) So go ahead, take it!
Having that boy arrested for wearing a skirt and suspending him and making the news and attracting the attention of vicious gay bloggers all over the country? Nothing distracting about that...
Let the real distraction begin...
Coffee High School (Home of the Trojans!)
Principal Greg Tanner
159 Trojan Way
Douglas, GA 31533
Superintendent of Coffee County Schools: Dr. Morris Leis
(912) 384-2086 x223
Other BOE members
End Hits: Ghost Animal is a better name than our band, Dead Pets Society.
Here's the gist of why we say you should vote yes on the Portland Public Schools bond and levy, even though it's the most expensive set of tax hikes in Oregon history and will cause our rent to go up: Our schools are important and they're falling apart. The state isn't going to leap in to fix them up and we shouldn't make kids wait in dilapidated classrooms for the years it would take to write up a smaller bond. It does seem like Portland Public Schools pinned down a dollar amount that would stretch pro-school Portlanders as far as possible without causing them to revolt and vote "no", but we need to invest in our schools to keep Portland attractive to employers and families... as well as, you know, create smart and well-educated young people.
For people asking exactly where all these piles of money are going to go, here's a chart (pdf) of which schools are going to get which improvements.
We didn't endorse in the school board race, but we recommend you check out the League of Women Voters election guide while filling out your ballot—their quick interviews with candidates should help you decide.
And much more! My friend just moved here to get her masters at Portland State University. Last night she and I did an internet search on the comically named current PSU president, Wim Wiewel. Little did we expect that the first site we clicked on would clue us in to the REAL truth about PSU! The 9/11 UFO Genocidal truth!
What is the reason that PSU Safety Patrollers, routinely profile, harass, and wrongfully cite elderly, black and white American men for trespassing, while continually to grant refuge to and harbor illegal aliens from Mexico? How come all of Portland State University presidents, have to be from out of state, or in the current case of the present, president, to be from Holland? Why is it that no graduate of Portland State University, is ever smart enough, or good enough, to ever become PSU president?
h/t to Rachel Hunter
That's exactly what the "University of Redwood" managed to do.
Okay. So. The University of Redwood doesn't exist. Instead, it's a charlatan website out of China, looking to rip off college hopefuls. Would-be students apply and pay application fees, only to receive a rejection notice weeks later.
And when it comes to not only the phony university's website design, but also its sheer identity, the ballsy minds behind this scheme decided the content over at Portland's own Reed College was simply irresistible. Reed's homepage, history, faculty, academic calendar, photos—pretty much everything—was copied and pasted into Redwood's fraudulent website.
"Clearly, we've been trying to get the website taken down," says Kevin Meyers, public relations spokesperson at the legit Reed College. "We sent a cease and desist back in October, and got them to take it down for about 10 days. But then it went back up."
"It's pretty amazing what they did—they basically just switched out 'Reed' for 'Redwood' in all the text, and took as their own," he continues.
Here's hoping Princesston University doesn't make an appearance on the interwebs anytime soon.
Pennsylvania high school teacher Natalie Munroe was just exercising her first amendment right as she as she began her day in August of 2009, confessing to her hatred of her job on her personal blog.
“I’m being a renegade right now, living on the edge and, um, blogging AT work," Munroe wrote. "However, as I’m blogging about work stuff, I give myself a free pass of conscience.” The timestamp on her post was 9:01 am.
“When I was first teaching, I put a lot of time and effort into [report card] comments because I felt it was a great way to communicate the students’ efforts. Then it got to be a complete pain in the ass, just one more thing standing between me and being done with the report cards, and suddenly I realized why I’d always gotten the same comments from my teachers: they didn’t want to do them any more than I do,” she wrote.
“Also, as the kids get worse and worse, I find that the canned comments don’t accurately express my true sentiments about them. So now I pretty much choose ‘Cooperative in Class’ for every kid (or, in some instances, will speak in other codes. For instance, if they talk a lot, I’ll put ‘is easily distracted’ or ‘talks persistently’; if it’s a kid that has no personality, I’ll put ‘ability to work independently’). For some kids, though, my scornful feelings reach such fever pitch that I have a hard time even putting ‘cooperative in class’ and have, sadly, had some kids for which none of the comments fit.”
It's probably not the best decision ever to express such candor about your hatred for your government job online where millions of people have access to it. But people have a right to feel how they decide to feel, and express that. Right?
Munroe didn't reveal her name or the school's on her blog, but it was somehow discovered by her students this past week (didn't see that one coming), which has resulted in her suspension from her job.
People responded that if she's unhappy with her job, she shouldn't work there. I thought that was ridiculous. In my opinion, work is work, and life outside of that involves free speech. She doesn't deserve to be suspended. The comments she wrote that she wanted to say about her students couldn't be that bad, right?
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