Scappoose, St. Helens join in statewide education walkout
Educators, staff members, students, parents and community members in Columbia County joined a statewide effort to advocate for increases in education funding by the Oregon Legislature on Wednesday, May 8.
The statewide protest was to demonstrate to the Oregon Legislature that schools need adequate funding to support students.
Currently, an Oregon House bill that would generate nearly $1 billion for education funding through business taxes is making its way through the Legislature. The bill, referred to as the Student Success Act, had a public hearing at the state Capitol in early April and passed through the Houseon May 1, but awaits a vote in the Senate.
Throughout Oregon, many teachers protested and rallied to push the Legislature to pass the bill by not showing up to classrooms Wednesday, prompting some school districts to close. In Scappoose and St. Helens, teachers unions planned several events to show support for the cause, but did so after school hours.
In St. Helens, participants marched from St. Helens High School to Lewis and Clark Elementary School along Highway 30, while other roadside demonstrations at Scappoose Middle School and the Sauvie Island Bridge took place later that afternoon.
Participants wore red t-shirts and carried a variety of signs, some homemade and others bulk printed.
"We need smaller class sizes. We need what's best for our kids and we need it now if we're gonna make a difference," Mary Beatley, a special education assistant at McBride Elementary, said as she walked in St. Helens Wednesday.
"We need support. We want everyone to know that schools need help of all kinds," Kristine Shaw, a special education assistant at McBride, added during the march.
As cars whizzed by on Highway 30, motorists honked their support, Carla Pletsch, a staff member at the high school, walked along with her son, Andrew. They both said they were pleased with the turnout and visibility of the protest.
"It's fantastic and I love the support of our community that is backing it up," Pletsch said. "You know, we can only pay so much in our taxes, so we're asking our state, please support us. Please, because our kids matter. Our kids are our future."
Jennifer Wentworth is a first-grade teacher who marched with her sister, Kerri Babin, and both of their school-age kids. Babin has children in Portland Public Schools and said she drove out to show unity with the message and support her sister.
"I see my teachers working more with less every single year and it's time to be done with that," Babin said as she marched. "I'm fed up and it's time for this Legislature, this two-thirds majority Legislature, to do what they need to do, what we we voted them in for."
In Scappoose, a crowd gathered in front of the middle school building for several hours, donning red shirts and handmade posters. Matt Schrunk, who is getting his teaching license this month, attended the demonstration with his wife, Kris, who is a middle school teacher.
"I just think the state of education in Oregon is not what it should be," Matt Schrunk said. "And class sizes are getting bigger and resources are shrinking and students are going to suffer for it."
Kris Schrunk said she hopes the walkouts and roadside demonstrations are a reminder for the public, as well as a call to action.
"I'm hoping people will be reminded that this is an issue and that they need to talk to their legislators, so hopefully it doesn't just stop at this and it gets the message out," Kris Schrunk added.
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