Jody Reed and Michelle Mercer wear ”Red for Ed” on Oregon Avenue during the rally in downtown Creswell last week. Erin Teirney/The Creswell Chronicle
Roughly 24 teachers and community members – all sporting red – took to Oregon Avenue after school on May 8 to rally for education.
The event organizers, Mona Stiffler and Liz Babbs, wanted to bring attention to the statewide disinvestment of the school system without staging a walkout, and this was ”the next best choice.” Participants carried ”I am #RedForEd” signs and waved at passersby.
”There were rallies in Eugene and Salem, but we wanted to bring attention to the local communities because these are your kids,” Babbs said. ”If we go somewhere else how do we show this is our intention and this matters to us.”
As the Oregon legislature meets this session to discuss education, this could be the first time in nearly 30 years that education is funded higher than its current levels. Oregon is ranked 33rd for educational funding in the nation, and has a high school graduation of 73.8 percent – 9.4 percent under the national average, according to U.S. News.
”This is important because as a teacher, the things I’ve done this week aren’t just teaching: I’m bringing students into the health room to bandage them, buying tissues because we’ve run out for the school year, class sizes have grown from a comfortable 29 to 37,” Babbs explained. ”Calling counselors, and giving kids mental health options and calling to get kids glasses – this is not the job of teachers.”
Kyla Dozier, the special education teacher for the middle school and high school said she came to support students and bring awareness to residents. She said it’s important because it’s going to reduce class sizes and give special education students more attention.
”Day-to-day, kids need a lot more support than they’re getting,” Dozier explained. ”Some need one-on-one support, but there’s 15 kids with a wide range of disabilities and it’s just me. If I was to have a smaller class size or another educational assistant there would be more success.”
Other districts throughout the area also participated in a ”Day of Action.”
Scott Linenberger, Pleasant Hill superintendent, said that although they had school, it was an early release. Teachers could leave at 1:30 p.m. with pay for the full shift; six teachers and one classified employee also went to Salem.
In Cottage Grove, the district held a ”Make Main Street Red for Public Ed” event, which included a march and rally from the schools to Main Street after the school day ended.
”Our district supports the adequate funding of K-12 education,” the superintendent for Southern Lane School District said in an email.
Jen McCully, Community Engagement Officer for Springfield School District, said that their teachers wanted to support the Day of Action while minimizing the impact to students as well. After their full school day, teachers gathered on Springfield’s Main Street to show their support.
”It was incredibly well-received by our community,” McCully said.
The rally in Creswell received mixed feedback, with some drivers honking their support and others calling out comments like, ”I work hard, too.”
Samantha Doyle, who was at the rally with her son, niece and nephew, said she appreciated how Creswell handled the rally.
”People were saying (a walkout is) stupid; it’s not stupid,” she said. ”But they shouldn’t take time away from the kids. (Creswell) gave time to students and then took their own personal time afterwards to really stand up for what matters, which is our kids and the way they’re raised and educated.”
Doyle, who is the wife of a teacher, added that children are our future, and that’s ”as simple as it gets.”