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Oregon Teachers Are Walking Out Of Their Classrooms Today, Forcing 600 Schools To Close - But They're ‘Not Demanding’ Raises

Published Wednesday, May 8, 2019
by Holly Yan/CNN
Oregon Teachers Are Walking Out Of Their Classrooms Today, Forcing 600 Schools To Close - But They're ‘Not Demanding’ Raises

(THE STATE OF OREGON) - It's National Teacher Appreciation Week, but you wouldn't know that by talking to Teachers in Oregon.  Tens of thousands of frustrated Teachers will air their grievances at protests across the State today (Wednesday, May 8th), but unlike other previously-held Teacher walkouts, these Educators aren't fighting for higher raises - they're fed up with overcrowded classrooms and a lack of Support Staff, including School Nurses and Mental Health Counselors.

"Nearly forty-five-percent ‘of all reported classes in Oregon have twenty-six students or more,’" said John Larson, a High School English Teacher and President of the Oregon Education Association (OEA).  Some classes have 56 or more students, he said.

So instead of going to class, many Teachers will take unpaid days off work to flood at least six protest sites across the State.  The mass exodus of Teachers already forced 25 school districts to close 600 schools today, Larson said.  The biggest district to close, Portland Public Schools, has more than 46,000 students.

What do teachers wantIt's not just funding for smaller class sizes. Union Members also want:

More School Counselors: Oregon has half the School Counselors that national experts suggest and the shortage of Mental Health Counselors is a big concern across the country - especially after all the recent school shootings.

More School Librarians: Currently, there are only 158 School Librarians in Oregon - less than one Librarian per district.

More School Nurses: There's only one Nurse for every 5,481 students.  That's four times less than national recommendations, the OEA said.

A restoration of art, music and physical education programs that have been cut by budget constraints.

More Funding for School Supplies: The OEA said 94% of Teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies "to make up the difference between what their students need and what districts can provide."

The passage of State House Bill 3427, dubbed the Student Success Act.  The Bill would increase funding for K-12 education by 18%.

The Oregon protest is the latest in a massive wave of Teachers' walkouts that started in West Virginia last year and keeps spreading like wildfire this year.

Last week, thousands of Teachers in North and South Carolina swarmed their State Capitol, demanding more Mental Health Counselors, higher pay and more money for Support Staff.  And earlier this year, Los Angeles Teachers went on strike for six days, which cost more than $125 million.

Union Leaders say much of the nationwide anger stems from States slashing education budgets during the recession a decade ago, but despite the improved economy, many education budgets have not caught up - especially when considering inflation.

So what will happen in Oregon if Teachers' demands aren't met?

"There are no longer-term walkouts currently planned," Larson said, "but Oregon Educators ‘will do whatever it takes to make sure our schools can afford what students need.’"

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