More than 20,000 Oregon teachers took part in a one-day walkout May 8 to demand better school funding. Joined by parents and students, they rallied 25,000-strong in Portland, 3,000-strong in Salem, 2,000-strong in Bend, and 1,100-strong in Eugene. Smaller actions were held in Albany, Woodburn, Corvallis, North Bend, Coos Bay, and elsewhere. In Newberg and some Eastern Oregon districts, instead of walkouts teachers held “walk-ins” in which they gathered wearing red t-shirts for a rally before the school day. In at least 25 school districts, schools were closed for all or part of the day. It’s illegal in Oregon for public employees to strike while a collective bargaining agreement is in force, so Oregon Education Association called it a “day of action” not a strike.
The day of action was meant to support House Bill 3427, which will raise $1 billion a year for school funding through a 0.57 percent gross receipts tax on Oregon businesses with more than $1 million a year in sales. Known as the Student Success Act, it passed the Oregon House by 37 to 21 on May 1, and the Oregon Senate by 18 to 11 on May 13. Half the funds raised will go to lower class sizes, lengthen the school year, and improve graduation rates, reading levels and attendance; about 20 percent will fund early childhood learning programs; and about 30 percent will fund career and technical education programs and free school meals for low-income students.