Hermiston High School’s colors are purple and gold, but on Wednesday the stands at Kennison Field were full of red.

Teachers from across the Hermiston School District rallied together at 7 a.m. for a “walk-in” instead of a walk-out as teachers across the state used May 8 to push legislators for more investment in education. They held signs encouraging lawmakers to “fully fund Oregon schools” and wore matching red T-shirts as part of a broader “Red for Ed” movement.

“We’re not here to push for raises and other union demands, we’re here to ask legislators to invest in our students,” said Delfino Osorio Garcia, the Hermiston Teachers Association president.

On Wednesday, Osorio Garcia addressed the crowd of teachers, classified staff, administrators and school board members, wishing them a happy Teacher Appreciation Week and thanking them for their service to students in the district.

“You are valued and appreciated,” he said.

He said Oregon’s average class sizes are some of the largest in the nation, and schools need more funding from the state to adequately address the needs of students, particularly those who come from backgrounds of abuse, neglect or other trauma.

“We need more nurses, more counselors, more librarians, more art, more music, more P.E. and more support for students with behavioral problems,” he said.

Superintendent Tricia Mooney also took the floor, thanking everyone present for “taking a stand against inadequate funding for education.”

The walk-in was organized in response to plans in other school districts for teachers to walk off the job on Wednesday.

Local teachers had previously stated that they wanted to participate in the effort to raise awareness of the need for more education funding, but did not want to add more days to the school year for students.

Mooney thanked the teachers for understanding that their students needed them in the classroom.

“You guys are amazing and I couldn’t be more proud,” she said.

The Pendleton School District took a more decentralized approach to Red for Ed.

About a dozen red-clad staff members stood in front of Sunridge Middle School Wednesday morning, holding up pro-school funding signs and waving at parents as they drove toward the student drop-off area.

Around 7:45 a.m., the teachers all filed into their classrooms, and at 3:30 p.m. they planned to all walk out together in solidarity, times that coincided exactly with their contract hours.

Pendleton Superintendent Chris Fritsch said administration and the teacher’s union held discussions after educators across the state started talking about taking action to support increased school funding.

Fritsch said everyone agreed on the central issue.

“We want the state to fully fund public education,” he said

“We don’t think they have.”

Both sides also agreed that staff wouldn’t want to do anything that would disrupt the school day, like a walkout.

“I’m not that extreme,” Sunridge special education teacher Jill Pitt said at the Red for Ed rally. “I still want to support students.”

Pitt said it was a tough national environment for school funding, referencing recent comments made by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos where she said larger class sizes could be a positive trend because it would allow for higher teacher compensation.

But she found some optimism in the news that the Oregon House of Representatives passed House Bill 3427, which would raise money for education reforms via a tax on businesses.

Fritsch was more guarded, noting that it could still be referred to the ballot before it becomes law.

“I think there’s too many ‘ifs’ for there to be certainty,” he said.

And there’s still some more hurdle for the bill to clear before it passes out of the Legislature.

As teachers around the state took action to support more education funding, the bill was stalled in the state Senate as Republican senators did a walk-out of their own.

All of the chamber’s Republican caucus were absent Tuesday to prevent the Senate from having the necessary quorum to vote for HB 3427.

Reporter

Reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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