BEND, OR -- Local teachers took to the streets Wednesday afternoon, wearing red and marching through Bend to demand full state funding for schools. Unlike several Portland-area districts, Redmond and Bend La-Pine schools were open for the day. But, after classes were out, teachers, administrators and supporters rallied as part of a statewide "Day of Action."
In downtown Bend, they gathered at Troy Field, wearing red shirts and chanting "red for ed." Educators at the event said without funding, class sizes are too large, there aren't enough counselors, and teachers have to buy their own supplies and clean their own classrooms. Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Michaelson told the crowd it's time to invest in public education, "For decades, Oregon has been underfunding our schools and right now, we have the best opportunity in memory to make a transformational investment in our students, our schools, and the future prosperity of Oregonians." Bend Education Association President Janelle Rebick told the crowd, "We need everyone's voice to be heard. I'm asking you, contact your legislators, make phone calls, write letters, tell them now is the time to make public education a priority in this state. If we don't stand up for our school kids, who will?" Bend-La Pine School Board member Peggy Kinkade added, "The future of our community and our state hinges on whether today's young people have the resources to thrive. It's past time to invest."
School Board member Julie Craig tells KBND News when class sizes get too big, kids don't get the attention they deserve, "We've done a really good job throughout the recession, and what not, with budget cuts to keep art and P.E. and all of these STEM classes, STEAM classes. But that doesn't mean that we don't need more. Kids that are interested in that need to have the ability to have a connection with their teacher."
Andy High, Bend-La Pine School Board Chair, says the district has always very supportive of schools, even though only 30% of residents have students in the classroom. He tells KBND News he believes Wednesday's event was proof of that continued support, "I think this is to show that we want to get our class sizes down, we want to focus on getting rid of distracted learners in classrooms, and getting counselors into the schools, and finding everything we can do to make the education experience better in Oregon."
In Bend, demonstrators also marched through downtown to raise awareness. A rally was held at La Pine Elementary, as well. In Redmond, teachers and supporters dressed in red also took part in the Day of Action, after school. Some marched through the city while others gathered on prominent street corners (right), waving signs.