Thousands of teachers, educators march on Oregon Capitol to demand funding

Educators rally in front of the Capitol as part of a statewide teacher walkout on May 8, 2019 (Aubrey Wieber/Salem Reporter)

One llama and a handful of dogs joined about 2,000 educators from Salem, Eugene and the Mid-Willamette Valley for a march on the state capitol to urge legislators to approve the Student Success Act and increase funding for Oregon schools.

Similar events took place around the state, with thousands more educators walking out of school in Portland, Beaverton and surrounding districts to protest.

The Oregon Education Association passed out Red for Ed shirts during the Salem rally in Riverfront Park. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Retired Salem-Keizer teacher Aurora Cedillo leads the crowd in a chant. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Caesar, right, and owner Larry McCool pose for photos with educators at Salem’s #RedforEd rally on May 8, 2019 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Eugene teachers and educators arrive at the rally. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Educators gathered in Riverfront Park to chant and listen to speakers before marching down State Street to the Capitol.

Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, a Portland-area Democrat who served on the legislature’s Joint Committee for Student Success, said Oregon has for too long funded schools as if their only purpose is education, when many are de facto providers of meals, mental health care and other social services.

“That long dry spell is coming to an end,” she said, referring to the House’s passage last week of the Student Success Act, which would levy a business tax to add $2 billion in state school funding over the next two years.

Smith Warner criticized her Republican colleagues, who skipped out on a Senate session Tuesday to delay a vote on the measure.

“All we need to do is tell those Senators: do your job,” she said, to cheers from the crowd.

Nancy Ingerson, German teacher at West Salem High School, puts the finishing touches on a banner during the May 8 rally. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

West Salem High School German teacher Nancy Ingerson said English teachers in her building routinely have classes of 35 or more students.

“It’s just absurd,” she said. The school has also had multiple student suicides and attempts this year and needs mental health counselors to work with students.

“We’re in crisis,” she said. “It’s really bad.”

Marchers wait at the entrance to Riverfront Park as Salem Police closed State Street. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

John Larson, left, Oregon Education Association president, and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, center, hold a banner at the front of the May 8 march. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García told the crowd that Oregon’s politically active teachers are asking for a more ambitious funding package than their peers in any other state.

“You are making history today,” she told a cheering crowd at the Riverfront Park amphitheater. “No one else is asking what you’re asking for.”

Teachers march down State Street toward the Capitol. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

A Salem police officer blocks traffic on Commercial Street to allow marchers to walk along State Street. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The marchers didn’t apply for a permit in advance, but Salem police opted to close the street as they walked because the number of people made walking on the sidewalk impractical, police spokesman Lt. Treven Upkes said.

Teachers marching chanted a half-dozen slogans, including “Red for ed,” prompting curious onlookers to come out of local businesses and and take pictures

One man wearing a barber cape walked onto State Street mid-fade to see what the noise was about.

Educators arrive at the Oregon Capitol. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

A marcher lays out signs urging people to call the Republican Senators who skipped a May 7 vote on the Student Success Act. (Aubrey Wieber/Salem Reporter)

North High School social studies teacher Sherry Chidwick marches along State Street (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Educators chant outside the Oregon Capitol on May 8, 2019 (Aubrey Wieber/Salem Reporter)

Jose Carlos Sandoval, a dancer with Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli, performs on the Capitol steps during the teacher walkout on May 8. (Aubrey Wieber/Salem Reporter)

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.