Teachers keep students in seats, then take to streets
Thousands of teachers took the Tom McCall Waterfront Park Wednesday morning, May 8, for a demonstration to protest a lacking of funding for education.
A budget of $8.97 billion for statewide public, K-12 school has been proposed, and most districts have deemed that not enough to cover rising costs of employee retirement benefits. Simultaneously, educators await a Senate decision on House Bill 3427, dubbed the Student Success Act. The act as proposed would change state corporate tax code to generate $1 billion per academic year to provide financial assistance to the public education sector.
Though many of their colleagues in other districts took a day of action outside of school, Oregon Trail School District teachers were in class with their students. However, as soon as the last bell rang they were on the corner of Bluff Road and Highway 26 with signs in a show of solidarity.
"We wanted to still have school for the kids, but join in the festivities after school in solidarity," eighth-grade math teacher Jean Freeman told The Post.
Freeman said her main motivation to demonstrate was class sizes.
"I'm looking at class sizes of 43 students next year," she noted. "It seems difficult to connect with individual students that way."
Many teachers who came out Wednesday said one of their biggest concerns were class sizes. A few Oregon Trail Academy teachers came out, acknowledging that their class sizes aren't bad at the charter school, but that they wanted to show up to support the other district educators.
"I know my colleagues have class sizes of like 32, even if I have a class size of five," said OTA language arts teacher Emily Hafer. "The kids deserve smaller class sizes, my colleagues deserve smaller class sizes. I hope the legislators can make this happen for us."
"Too many kids in a classroom causes too many problems," added sixth-grade math teacher from Boring Middle School, Laurie Espenel. "It's hard to educate when you only have a minute for each kid in the classroom. We need funding. Our kids deserve it."
The teachers out today made sure to point out that the protest wasn't against Oregon Trail, but a lack of funding at the state level.
"This is not against OTSD, it's against the state," Hafer noted.
District Human Resources Director Ken Bucchi was actually present at the afterhours protest "to support the teachers."
"Our first obligation was the students and that was met today," Bucchi told The Post.
"We know we're going to be cutting education funding for OTSD alone by $350,000 this year and next," noted Tiffany Laisister, Boring Middle School social studies teacher.
Even at current funding levels, Laisister said, schools in the Oregon Trail district don't have a sufficient number of specialists, such as counselors, nurses and other educators for classes in physical education and the arts, on staff.
"Even with small class sizes, we have a lot of kids with mental health issues," noted OTA middle school math teacher Sarah Dummer.
Several educators recommended that, beyond "honking for education," other Sandyites who wish to help the effort to "fund our future" should volunteer in the schools to get a better picture of what's happening and what he teachers are protesting to help finance.
"Everyone is in it for the kids," Hafer said.
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