On May 8th Gresham High School took the day off from school because of the statewide walkout. On Burnside and Main from 8-10 am Gresham-Barlow School District employees held up signs to promote better funding for schools.
“[I’m here] to try to get the state to fund education properly,” vice president of the Gresham-Barlow Teacher’s Union, Karissa Slack, said.
The school district made the decision to institute May 8th as a day off after a majority of staff members said they would walk out of the classroom to make a statement to gain more state funding for education. The current Oregon budget for education is currently $2 billion short. Many staff and community members were upset about this because it could mean cuts to electives, counselors, school nurses, and teachers themselves.
At the April Gresham-Barlow School Board meeting many members of the community discussed issues with funding for schools. One common question held true for everyone: “If the economy is doing well, why are we still getting cuts?”
Alison Brink, a Spanish teacher at GHS for 22 years said that she’s lost peers over the years. According to Brink, the school had about 100 teachers when she joined but it’s probably in the 60s now.
People at GHS are all too familiar with some of the problems that were addressed at the larger walk-out at the waterfront in Portland. There were an estimated 25,000 people, many of which were holding up signs. Many signs referenced large class sizes. This has been a big problem at Gresham High School for many years with some class sizes above 40.
One sign in Portland said, “every school deserves a nurse”. GHS students and staff are also quite familiar with the unavailability of the school nurse, as she’s only at GHS a few days each week. Phoenix Blickie, GHS’ school nurse, also works at Deep Creek Elementary School, Damascus Middle School, and Gordon Russell Middle School.
“In the Gresham Barlow School district there are four nurses,” Blickie said. There are a total of 19 schools in the Gresham-Barlow School District.
In a hypothetical situation where GHS has proper funding, many students and staff would like to see it go towards things that encourage students to do well in school.
“I’d like to have more electives… stuff that prepares us so we can be a fully rounded capable person,” sophomore art student Angela Manley said.
But unfortunately, GHS does not have proper funding yet.
A new bill, The Student Success Act, which gives schools statewide $1B, was passed in the House and is headed to Governor Kate Brown, but is likely to go on the November ballot.
“[If we did have funding] we might have smaller classes. More [elective] classes… and a number of things that have been cut,” Slack said.
Staff and students alike are waiting for proper funds as a way to better support students in their academic careers and personal success.
“We’ve got to do something different,” Brink said.