Thousands gather in downtown Portland to rally for Student Success Act

The downtown rally was one of many that took place across the state Wednesday.

By Meghan Turley, Online Editor

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  • Educators from across the state rallied in downtown Portland Wednesday to pressure legislators into passing the student success act, which would give schools an additional $2 billion.

  • Marchers headed into downtown Portland around noon on Wednesday to pressure lawmakers into passing the Student Success Act.

  • A participant attending the rally holds a "I am #redfored" sign while walking through downtown Portland.

  • One sign reads "This isn't GOT we need funding not a wall"

  • Another protestor holds a stop sign with "Fund Title 1, Stop systemic oppression. Title 1 is the current funding designated by the federal government per student.

  • Signs at the rally included phrases such as "Our kids are the future"

  • Protestors hold up sign reading "Where's the Funding" at Wednesday's rally.

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    On Wednesday, an estimated 20,000 educators from across the state gathered at Tom Mccall Waterfront to call on legislators to pass the Students Success Act. The walkout lead to the closure of 600 schools statewide, in districts such as Beaverton, Tigard-Tualatin, and Portland Public Schools.

     The OEA encouraged participants to wear red to show support for the cause. Unlike other protests across the nation under #redfored, Wednesday’s walkout was not a demand for better wages or other union demands. It was a call on lawmakers to step up and pass the Student Success Act. Many teachers and students brought homemade signs. Some carried phrases such as “Teachers just wanna have fund$” and “Where’s the funding (WTF).” The message of many speeches given was an emphasis on funding Oregon’s public education system better.

     The rally started around 11 a.m. with a speech from Oregon Education Association President John Larson, a teacher from Hermiston High School.

     “This is historic, this is what we came here for today is to make sure we fund our schools.” Larson said, met with applause.

    Larson shared a story of a first year teacher in Gresham, who didn’t think her class size of 38 was a challenge, but was concerned for her fellow staff members who were teaching classes of 40 or more.

Meghan Turley
Jefferson student Jolly Wrapper performs slam poetry at the rally.

     Jefferson student and slam poet Jolly Wrapper performed at the rally as well. “They tell us to raise the bar but get mad when the bars start meeting; soon as my art starts speaking, my bars start peaking; that’s when their ego starts shrinking, so they pull my cord right before my heart starts beating,” Wrapper shared during his poem.

     Protests also occurred in Salem, Eugene, and other Oregon cities across the state. Unlike other teacher protests across the nation, Oregon emphasized the walkout Wednesday was not for higher wages, or other union demands. For them, Wednesday was about students.

     Amanda Thompson is a third grade teacher at Mary Woodward.

     “Well I hope that the funding comes through for our state, and I hope it helps with our dropout rate, our kids that need social emotional learning, all the students in our classroom that need to learn.” she said about her hope for the funding.  Thompson was impressed with the turnout and amount of support the movement gathered.

     Tigard junior Kavi Shrestha attended the rally to help show support for his teachers.

     “Hopefully this will give us the budget to promote more mental health resources and other resources in our schools,” he said.  Shresta is involved with school board and district activities and thinks that the passing of the legislation will be beneficial statewide.

    Notably, all 12 Republicans in the Oregon Senate did not show up to the vote for the package on Tuesday. Some legislators went to Vancouver, Washington to avoid the vote. Early Wednesday, they issued a list of demands to Salem Democrats in order to appear for a vote on the $2 billion piece of legislation.

    Aura Haddad is a fourth grade teacher in the Beaverton school district. Her current class has 35 students.

     “It’s really hard for us as educators to teach class sizes when we have 30 or more students,” she said. Haddad wanted to encourage participants to write to their legislators.

     She also had a message to students.

     “Know that we’re here for you, not against you,” Haddad said.