BEND, Ore. - While thousands of Oregon teachers plan a walkout on May 8 to make their call for more state education funding, Bend-La Pine teachers and staff will be on the job, instead planning after-school marches and rallies with much the same message and inviting parents and others to join them.
The Bend-La Pine School Board and all of the district’s employee unions sent a rare joint message to families on Wednesday, detailing their plans and urging families to take part (the full note is below) or if they can't, to join them in wearing "Red for Ed" that day.
Janelle Rebick, an elementary school teacher and Bend Education Association president, said Wednesday the different approach than other districts stems from a collaborative process between Bend-La Pine officials and staff, something they work at all the time.
The district already has shorter school days on “School Improvement Wednesdays,” for teachers to have planning and professional development time after school. That is the time they will use to voice their message, not the critical “student contact time,” Rebick said.
Teachers in each school district around the state are charting their own path for the day. In Klamath County, for example, a Family Learning Expo is planned.
The conversations over why more dollars are needed aren’t waiting for May 8, of course. Rebick noted how often teachers wearing their red "educator" shirts on Wednesdays are often stopped in the grocery store or the like, to discuss the issues.
Teachers and school staff in other districts who walk out may lose a day’s pay, or extend the school year by a day. In Bend-La Pine, adding another day at the end of the school year would mean the last day of school would be on a Monday - not very convenient for families.
The day out of class, even prearranged, also could bring about disciplinary action and a letter of reprimand or "letter of direction" in teachers's files -- something no one wants, Rebick said.
So instead, the after-school events are a compromise worked out in discussions among all of the involved parties, she said.
Some details are still being worked out. Since middle and high school students are released at 1 p.m. Wednesdays and elementary schools an hour later, middle and high school staff are planning to go over to the elementary schools and provide information to parents as they pick up their kids, Rebick said.
Teachers face not just growing class sizes, but a growing number of disruptive students, many due to sad tales of trauma in their lives, with issues such as drug-dependent parents. There are no counselors in the district’s elementary schools, Rebick noted, and educational assistants (teacher’s aides) also are spread thin.
Another example: With preschools harder to get into, some kindergarteners show up not having been potty-trained.
So while the political battle in Salem is about dollars — how many more and where to get them — teachers and other school workers have personal stories to share, to put a human face on what they mean when everyone says, “It’s all about the kids.”
Here's the letter sent home to parents:
April 24, 2019
Bend-La Pine Schools’ Families,
On May 8, across Oregon, supporters of public education are coming together for a "Day of Action." These events look different in each community. Here at Bend-La Pine Schools, after-school rallies are planned for Bend and La Pine. Families are invited to join hundreds of staff members from throughout the district for an energetic afternoon of music, inspiration and camaraderie in support of education.
Bend March for Students
2:45 p.m. - Gather at Education Center Lawn and Troy Field
3:15 p.m. – Rally begins
3:45 p.m. - March begins through downtown Bend
4:30 p.m. - Event concludes
La Pine March for Students
2:45 p.m. - Gather at La Pine Elementary School Playground
3:15 p.m. – Rally begins
3:45 p.m. - March begins through La Pine
4:30 p.m. - Event concludes
Our May 8 events are intentionally timed to coincide with the Oregon Education Association’s “Day of Action” to protest the state’s decades-long failure to provide adequate and stable funding for K-12 education. While planned activities in some districts include teacher “walk outs,” our teachers and staff here at home have instead opted to keep schools open to ensure students can receive the safe learning environments they deserve and to limit financial impacts to our families and local businesses.
Whether or not you can join us that afternoon, we encourage you to wear red in support of local students and school staff on May 8. If you feel inclined, snap and share a photo your family, coworkers or four legged friends wearing red in support of appropriately funded education. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Survey after survey shows that Oregonians across the state want smaller class sizes, increased health and safety services, more learning time, and a well-rounded education to ensure every student in Oregon receives a high-quality education and graduates prepared for the future. Yet, right now, Oregon public schools are underfunded by $1.96 billion annually, according to the most recent Oregon Quality Education Model.
To truly fulfill the promise of public education, Oregonians need to invest in our future: K-12 education. This work requires adequate and stable funding. With appropriate levels of funding, Bend-La Pine Schools could go beyond our current service levels and focus on the following investments:
Smaller Class Sizes
A priority for our district is that every student is known by name, strength, and need. Smaller class sizes help teachers foster strong relationships with each student and promote learning. Additional, targeted reductions in class sizes would help to support our most vulnerable students.
Increased Health and Safety Services
Across our state and the nation, schools and districts recognize growing needs for staff and programming to support the social and emotional well-being of all our students. We would add counselors, therapists, mental health providers, and prevention specialists, as well as targeted programming focused on student wellness and prevention, intervention, and response to at-risk behaviors.
More Learning Time
We recognize the time students need to achieve success varies. We would expand extended-day and extended-year programming for students with the highest needs to help ensure they gain the skills they need for success.
A Well-Rounded Education
Students gain critical skills through a broad range of educational experiences, including the arts, Career and Technical Education (CTE)/vocational programs, internships, and extra-curricular/co-curricular sports and activities. We would expand these programs and classes to ensure students have access to a broad range of educational experiences.
Please join us on May 8 as we raise our voices and march for the adequate and stable state funding that our students need to be successful both today and in the future.
Bend-La Pine Schools’ certified, classified, confidential and administrator associations
Bend-La Pine Schools’ Board of Directors