Local teachers will rally May 8 for higher, stable school funding
Gresham area students are getting an unexpected day off Wednesday, May 8, as local educators participate in a statewide day of action to support adequate funding for schools.
Local schools districts, joining those in the Portland area, chose to close May 8 because there would not be enough teachers or substitutes to open the schools safely.
Teachers from Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds, Centennial, David Douglas and Parkrose school districts will be wearing their "red for ed" T-shirts and gathering on busy street corners during morning rush hour Wednesday, May 8, then dispersing to other rallies.
Regina Norris, president of the Gresham-Barlow Education Association, said the day of action is necessary because "we have had decades of disinvestment in our schools. Right now, our schools are in crisis."
She said May 8 is about the time when the state Legislature begins discussing Oregon's budget in earnest, and the educators wanted to highlight the lack of funding.
Teacher's unions support a bill called the Student Success Act, which would raise $2 billion for schools, mostly through business taxes. The bill is wending its way through the Legislature.
"Committee passage of the Student Success Act shows exciting momentum for a historic investment in our schools that would lower class sizes, provide mental and behavioral health supports for students and restore essential programs like art, music and PE," said John Larson, president of the Oregon Education Association, in a statement.
"We want to make an impact by rallying and being a cohesive voice for our students," Norris noted.
Rallies are scheduled in Salem and in Portland later in the day on Wednesday.
After the streetcorner gatherings, most of the local teachers will head to Portland's Tom McCall Waterfront Park for what is expected to be a large rally beginning about 11 a.m.
Organizers said Oregon's students have to navigate some of the largest average class sizes in the nation, missing out on individualized attention from their teachers and educators.
They'd also like to see music, arts, physical education and career and technical education restored in schools and more teachers, school counselors, nurses, librarians, and educational support professionals to foster student success.
Norris, formerly a physical education teacher and now a grant manager, said years ago there was daily physical education at every school.
"Now we barely have half-time PE," she said.
Local districts are making up the class time that will be lost on May 8 in different ways. Gresham-Barlow made April 26 a regular school day for students instead of a day off for teacher training that had been set aside earlier.
Centennial added a day to the end of the school year, so the last day for students will be Friday, June 14. Teachers will not be paid on May 8. Reynolds also will add a day at the end of the year, so the last day for students is Thursday, June 13.
Norris hopes that parents and community members support the push for more robust school funding.
"This is not just about people with kids," she said. "This is about everyone in the community."
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