Many teachers around the state will stage walkouts on May 8, to demand better support for education from the Oregon Legislature. But Hermiston and Umatilla teachers decided not to participate in the walkout.
Instead, teachers from each district will stage a “walk-in,” holding an event to send a message to legislators calling for adequate funding in schools.
Delfino Osorio Garcia, the Hermiston Association of Teachers president, said there were a few factors behind Hermiston’s decision to not join the walkout. One, he said, was that they didn’t want to add more days to the school year for students. If enough teachers walked out and school had to be closed, he said, it would add a day of school to Hermiston’s calendar year, putting their last day of school on a Monday and running into summer school.
“Our decision was, how can we best support our union while also doing what’s best for our students?” he said.
Garcia said the union decided to hold an event before school, at Hermiston High School’s Kennison Field at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, May 8, inviting district administrators, school board members, Hermiston Association of Teachers union members, and people from the Oregon School Employees Association. Participants will listen to teachers speak about the need for adequate funding in schools.
“We haven’t ever funded (schools) to where they need to be, and they keep taking away more,” he said.
Umatilla School District Superintendent Heidi Sipe said the district will be holding a walk-in on the same day, which will look a little different than Hermiston’s. Community members will start their day by listening to speeches about the district’s needs for funding. Then, they can choose to go to any of Umatilla’s three schools, and spend a day doing “a walk in their shoes,” seeing what a typical day looks like for Umatilla students. At the end of the day, they can turn in feedback about what they saw and what they think the needs and strengths of the district are.
“So many people haven’t been in a school since they graduated,” Sipe said. “This is an event for everyone.”
Oregon Education Association president John Larsen said they are expecting more than 10,000 teachers and staff across the state to participate in the walkouts, which will include marches, speeches, and music performances in individual communities.
“Basically, it’s to try and bring attention to the disparity of funding in our schools right now,” he said. “Our schools have got to be funded.”
Larsen, who was a Hermiston High School language arts teacher for 15 years before stepping into the statewide union role, said there’s never been a statewide demonstration by teachers like this in Oregon.
“This is completely unprecedented,” he said. “It’s the result of 30 years of disinvestment from our schools. We keep covering the pain and cuts in our schools, and we can’t do that anymore.”