Next month, a sea of red will flood downtown Portland's waterfront area — a color representing educators' and community members' advocacy for fair funding for K-12 education in Oregon.
In response to the Oregon Education Association (OEA) organizing a statewide day of action May 8 related to what it believes is insufficient school funding, the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board approved calendar changes April 16 to allow May 8 to be converted into a professional growth day, which means no school for students.
"Their (OEA) intention is that this day of action will result in legislative movement to increase funding. Levels of public school funding impact all school districts in Oregon including West Linn-Wilsonville," said WL-WV Superintendent Kathy Ludwig. "OEA's purpose with this rally is to send the message to all Oregonians that public school funding has been insufficient for decades and needs to be addressed."
Teachers across the Portland area plan to rally at 11 a.m. at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. The OEA, including the WL-WV Education Association (WWEA), are calling for state lawmakers to support the Student Success Act, which would add $2 billion to K-12 education in the 2019-21 biennium.
Ludwig said the administration will not participate in the protest because it will be leading professional development for staff and conducting other meetings and work within the district.
To keep the same amount of instructional hours for students, April 24 was converted from a professional growth Wednesday to a full day of school and May 22 was changed to a professional growth day with a two-hour early release at the primary level only.
"While it's not a district-sponsored event, we support our teachers," said WL-WV Communication Director Andrew Kilstrom. "This decision is made with parents and families in mind, and we know it can be difficult, so we are thinking about them and hoping this is the best situation for everything."
WWEA President Lane Johnson said the OEA's day of action is not a strike and that the WWEA is not taking action against the school district.
"I want everyone to know we have no dispute with our district, no dispute with our parents. We are so grateful for the support our community gives us, the schools and our district has given us," he said. "It's purely a day of advocacy for our members. … We are having our members take a personal day from their jobs to spend the day advocating for adequate and fair funding for education (in) K-12 schools around the state."
Johnson said the WWEA has plans in place, both locally and at the Portland waterfront, but they weren't finalized yet so he could not provide specifics.
"Any teacher who takes a personal day on May 8 will not stay home. That's not the purpose of this," Johnson said. "We are hoping for a very large group of people. What we would like to see is a sea of red —red for ed. It's important for everyone to see this is what we are about; we are about advocating for our students."
Johnson acknowledged that this day of action goes far beyond WL-WV schools and claimed that teachers are stewards of every child in the state, not just the faces that show up in WL-WV School District classrooms.
"The message it's sending is that as stewards of the education system, teachers are standing up and saying 'enough is enough; our students deserve better,'" Johnson said.
West Linn High School sophomore Matilda Milner said that when she found out about OEA's day of action, it made her realize teachers value their schools and want the best for students.
"They want higher officials in our state government to value students' futures and successes as much as they do. I don't think this is a selfish movement on behalf of the teachers," she said, adding that she believes teachers are just asking for resources to do the best job they can do. "I think that it's important that teachers advocate for their rights because educators do have one of the most important roles in our society: the upbringing of the children who will run our society."
Milner planned to participate in the rallies and events that are taking place May 8.
Johnson said he hopes May 8 will grab the attention of Oregon legislators and show them how necessary it is to provide stable funding for K-12 education.
"Even though our district has local operating levies and capital bonds, we are still very tied to the state budget," he said. "The state has failed in their responsibility to fully fund schools."
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