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Oregonians Rally in Capital for Students, Education

The national #RedforEd movement came to Salem on President's Day with the March for Our Students. (Oregon Education Association)
The national #RedforEd movement came to Salem on President's Day with the March for Our Students. (Oregon Education Association)
February 19, 2019

SALEM, Ore. — Thousands of Oregonians were in the capital on President's Day, rallying for students, teachers and education.

The March for Our Students attracted more than 4,000 people from across the state to brave the cold and tell lawmakers it's time to step up education funding in Oregon. Nicole Watson, a fourth-grade teacher in Portland, addressed the crowd standing beside two young students from Portland and Oregon City.

"The importance of educators, the importance of this movement, is a message to our children that we believe in you, we believe in your future and giving you the opportunity to dream in colors that you have yet to invent, baby,” Watson told the crowd.

The march was part of the national #RedforEd movement that has gained momentum of late, supporting recent teacher strikes in Denver and Los Angeles. Oregon has some of the largest class sizes in the nation, and educators say smaller classes would better set students up for success.

Cara Haskey, a Portland mother of two who was at the rally, said her kids' classes are too big. But she said she's hopeful a democratic supermajority in the Oregon Legislature and support from Gov. Kate Brown means schools will get the funding they need.

"I don't think it's a slam dunk,” Haskey said. “I think people need to raise their voices, share their stories, let their legislators know what's not working and what they would like to see differently so that we can get this over the finish line."

Lisa Fragala is a second-grade teacher in Eugene who drove up to the rally in Salem. She said education is a community issue and if the state doesn't invest in it now, it could be a problem for Oregon's future economic vitality.

"We need our business community leaders to take a step up and know that this is absolutely necessary for our state to continue to be the really amazing place that it is,” Fragala said.

Marchers also called for more funding for wraparound services, such as support for the more than 21,000 Oregon students experiencing homelessness.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR