Education Funding Matters Rally

Advanced Journalism , Senior Reporters

Hundreds of teachers across the state of Oregon will be absent from their classrooms tomorrow. Instead of teaching, they will be rallying for better school funding, more staff, and additional resources within their school districts. Throughout Oregon, this day is being called the “Day of Action.” In the Portland area, public school advocates will be gathering in Waterfront Park to peacefully demonstrate that students deserve success with their education and success in their lives moving forward after high school. Schools districts, including Salem, Gladstone, Beaverton, North Clackamas, Gresham-Barlow, and more will be participating. School is cancelled May 8th in the NCSD and in many other districts because the expected number of teachers who are likely to participate exceeds the number of substitutes. Since this Day of Action is causing North Clackamas Schools to shut down for the day the NCSD Board of Directors has decided to add an extra day to the end of the school year leaving the year end on June 18th. While NCSD supports the overall need to have additional state operating funding, “We do not have an opinion about this specific act. The reality is NCSD is responding to this matter, not sponsoring it,” says Jonathan Hutchison, Communications Director for the North Clackamas School District.  


The rally is set to take place at 11:00 am in Portland with other rallies set around Oregon. Teachers from all over will be gathering at the Waterfront Park in downtown Portland to show their dedication to their students, schools, and each other. In Milwaukie, educators and parents  will be holding up signs along the sidewalks of the Orange line stop in downtown Milwaukie. In earlier months, “A March For Our Students” took place in the state capital that elicited 5,000 educators, all of them pleading for more money for schools, and if they are successful, the money could raise the low graduation rates in the state and provide support to the school systems. Statistics currently show that Oregon has the third lowest high school graduation rate in the country. Oregon schools also, “Lack support for students with behavioral issues, which has created a crisis of disrupted learning because students with unmet needs are not getting the help they deserve,” states the Oregon Education Association. Educators are hoping to see change quickly and hoping that their students have the experiences they deserve.


 North Clackamas Education Association (NCEA) President, Robin Troche, says, “We need to keep the pressure on our legislative and economic leaders. They have put forward a plan, but we need to ensure they follow through…And we need to keep showing up, speaking up, and talking about why class sizes and mental health supports for students matter.”


Alex Pulaski, Communications Director for the Oregon School Boards Association, does not believe Oregon schools have been receiving enough funding in the past years. In fact, he says, “Oregon has underfunded its schools since 1990 when measure 5 passed.” Furthermore, Pulaski explains, “My organization has created the campaign known as Oregonians for Student Success…to reverse this trend and advocate for full and stable school funding in Oregon. Our members – more than 1,400 school board members across the state – believe that our students deserve greater investment so they have an opportunity to thrive.” Pulaski is very passionate about helping students become successful and receive good opportunities. In relation to how successful the “Day of Action” will be, Pulaski says he doesn’t know exactly how successful, but he has “already seen enormous support for a historic investment of $1 billion annually in schools from this Legislature.” On the other hand, some negatives that could come of the protest is that “Some parents will resent school closures, even if they support the protest itself” (Pulaski). However, overall the May 8th rally is predicted to be more successful than not.  Furthermore, the Joint Committee on Student Success has spent more than a year touring the state and crafting a plan that invests in… students and is fair to taxpayers. [Pulaski believes] their leadership, under co-chairs Arnie Roblan and Barbara Smith Warner, has been amazing.”

Barbara Smith Warner is a member of the Oregon House of Representatives. She represents District 45, which includes Northeastern Portland, Maywood Park, and Parkrose. Smith Warner is also Co-Chair of the student success joint committee. In 2019, the Committee proposed a bill called the Student Success Act, that was sent to the House of Representatives for review. As of May 2019, the bill passed the House and is now directed to the Senate to see if the bill can continue on its political journey to become a law. Smith Warner, says, “The Student Success Act is a dedicated, stable source of revenue for Pre-K to 12 education that ties funding to outcomes, requires ongoing accountability, and closes the opportunity gap for historically underserved students.” Smith Warner believes the act is important because it will allow kids to learn the things they are meant to learn, and learn the things they need to learn, in order to be successful in life. She talked about a “year-long tour of the Joint Committee on Student Success…” Smith Warner continues to say, “We took 10 trips totaling almost 3,000 miles to 55 schools in every corner of the state, to listen and learn from the students, parents, educators, and communities about the challenges and opportunities of Oregon’s public school system.” The trip is how the Student Success Joint Committee established their idea for a bill. Smith Warner said that she cannot directly comment about the May 8th rally, as her committee is not directly involved, but she did say that “The nationwide focus by teachers reflects the sad truth that every state has its own problems with education funding. I hope that the May 8 event demonstrates the importance of this issue to all Oregonians.”


Psychology teacher at Clackamas High School, Harverty Brown, believes the rally is happening due to a demand for the state government to fully fund Oregon education. Brown states, “For too long, students and staff have not been given the support they need to thrive and excel in our world. We are asking the state to fund basic needs of our school system, such as more counselors and access to mental health care, lower class sizes, and early childhood education.”. Brown knows exactly where the problem lies, and what can be done to improve Oregon education. She recognizes that poor funding for Oregon schools is not a new problem. Brown explains, “Since the 1990s, Oregon has not sufficiently funded schools, and each year teachers have to worry about their job security and ability to support themselves financially, especially new teachers.” Furthermore, Brown states, “Class sizes keep growing, making learning and engagement more difficult for students and teachers.” It is crucial for teachers to start getting higher pay, and for class sizes to be decreased. Brown is participating in the rally because she believes teachers and school staff need to have a voice when it comes to this topic. Moreover, Brown believes students should have a voice as well. She states, “Our education system should serve all students in becoming successful and engaged citizens in our country. For me, it feels like a very daunting task, with over 200 students and six classes. I want students to have the support they deserve in their education, and right now I don’t think any of us feel equipped to provide that to its fullest extent.” Brown wants to serve students the best she can, but she feels she is lacking the basic tools to do so.

Due to the May 8th rally, North Clackamas schools (along with many other schools) will be canceled, as teachers will be in downtown Portland, rallying for better school funding, more staff members, and additional resources within the districts. But will only one day of rallying change the legislatures mind? If so, how? These are the questions we have to consider as we try to move forward and make improvements in the long run.