COOS COUNTY — Thousands of teachers across the state stepped out of their classrooms to march for more education funding on Wednesday.
The May 8 stand in support of the Student Success Act, or House Bill 2019, took place in three locations on the South Coast.
Teachers donned in red took to the streets in Brookings while others gathered in the Hall of Champions at North Bend High School and marched together down Broadway Avenue to State Street Park. Coos Bay teachers also rallied around the visitor’s center in the downtown area later in the afternoon, the same day the state senators were expected to make a final vote on a bill that would bring an additional $2 billion to education.
However, only one Republican senator showed up on Wednesday, state Sen. Tim Knopp, and it was to deliver a message, KATU News reported.
"We are going to continue to deny a quorum until we believe that the voices of our constituents are being heard. And this is one of the only opportunities and tools that we have in order to do that," Knopp told a KATU reporter. "The issues of the tax increase along with policy and structural spending reforms have to be linked because you can raise all kinds of taxes and if you don't solve the spending problem that the state of Oregon has, we're not gonna make any progress on improving the outcomes for students."
Because no Republicans showed up to vote, the decision on the Student Success Act is delayed another day. Similarly on Tuesday, no Republican senators showed up to vote either.
Meanwhile, the majority of teachers marched this week for the second time in almost a month in support of the bill.
“This is historic when you consider school funding in the state of Oregon,” said Steve Fraga, UniServ consultant for the Oregon Education Association hours before the Wednesday march.
Fraga pointed out that he began working with educators in 1994 and has always seen education funding fall short of what was needed.
Back in 1999, the Quality Education Model was developed to show what it takes to educate students successfully. It was created by legislation with the mandate to generate a report every two years declaring whether or not the state met those necessary goals for quality education. For two decades, it has showed Oregon failing in these goals.
House Bill 2019 is a step in the direction to fix that.
“The QEM is our best model, an outstanding model to understand what Oregon legislatures set up as the benchmark, and they simply produced for two decades reports how they have fallen short,” Fraga said.
Not only that, but this proposed tax plan is on the largest corporations in the state.
“The corporate activity tax to fund the $2 billion in the Student Success Act is only on the largest corporations in the state,” Fraga said. “The tax is half a percent and starts with the second million dollars in sales. It’s a unique opportunity where the business community has been at the table over several months talking about what plan is best to fund this historic measure.”
Marshfield student Andrew Sheerin joins dozens of teachers, administrators and supporters at a demonstration Wednesday in downtown Coos Bay. …
State Senator Arnie Roblan pointed out just before the April march that though House Bill 2019 has been in the works for just over a year, the need for it began in 1990 when Ballot Measure 5 was passed and moved education funding away from property taxes.
“Since that time, we’re between $3 and $4 billion short to meet the required amount to run our schools,” he said in a previous interview, adding that during the budget shortfall there have been numerous conversations to build up appropriate levels of funding for Oregon schools.
“We have amazingly dedicated teachers trying to do their best with the resources they have,” he said. “We heard consistently from the 197 school districts that each one believes they are unique in geography, what needs improvement, so they wanted to make sure part of this bill also gave them the option to develop their own plans.”
Fraga said on Wednesday that he thinks it will be a close vote in the senate, but that he thinks it will pass.
“We’re already thinking where to best put these dollars to use in schools,” he said. “This is a key moment in that history that stepped up. It’s exciting.”