This post was last updated on May 11th, 2019 at 08:34 am
A crowd of tens of thousands of frustrated teachers in Oregon were seen staging a one-day walk out, wearing T-shirts and holding signs that declared “Proud Educator”. In this national Teacher Appreciation Week, these educators were airing their grievances across the state, on Wednesday. However, unlike major protests, the agenda of this one is completely different.
The Oregon teachers are tired of the overcrowded classrooms and a lack of support staff, which included school nurses and mental health counselors. Carrying these problems, they marched out fighting for more money for schools, and not the hike in pay scale.
A high school English teacher and president of the Oregon Education Association, John Larson said, “Nearly 45 per cent of all reported classes in Oregon have 26 students or more.” Besides, some even have 56 or more students.
Due to these conditions, several teachers are taking unpaid days off instead of going to class, to flood at least six protest sites across the state.
Larson stated that the mass rally of teachers has already forced 25 school districts to close 600 schools on Wednesday. Amongst them, Portland Public Schools is the biggest district to close, comprising of more than 46,000 students.
“This is historic,” Larson addressed to the teachers, parents and students at a riverfront rally in downtown Portland. “This is what we came here for today — is to make sure that we fund our schools.”
The participants were carrying placards with messages, saying “Class size matters” and “Teachers just wanna have fund$”. They were complaining about the unorganized classrooms, schools with no guidance counselors, and the reliance on outdated computer equipment.
Apart from funding for smaller class sizes, the union members are calling for more librarians; school counselors; school nurses; funding for school supplies; and restoration of art, music and physical education programs.
Later on Wednesday, the protesters and their supporters marched to the state Capitol building in Salem for a massive rally. While the demonstrations continue, State Sen. Rob Wagner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, says that he hopes his colleagues pass the Student Success Act.
“The Student Success Act specifically raises revenue for schools, offering targeted investment grants for more mental health support, more after-school programs and much more,” Wagner said.
“It adds $1 billion a year for schools in Oregon, with districts able to figure out where they need the money most. This is a once in a generation investment for our children.”
While the leaders are raising several issues in their campaigns, the school conditions remain unknown. Will the government resolve the basic necessities?