Teachers in some Oregon school districts will take May 8 off to demonstrate in favor of better funding from the Legislature. Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson has asked teachers to stay on the job and not disrupt students’ education.
Mikalson sent a message to staff members earlier this month asking teachers and others to report to work as usual on the day the Oregon Education Association has dubbed a “Day of Action” about school funding. The message reiterated Mikalson’s own commitment to the cause of increasing education funding. He noted that while district employees have the same free speech rights as anyone else, he also has the duty to follow both state law and the district’s collective bargaining agreement, which prohibits employees from walking out on their jobs.
District employees should not doubt Mikalson’s sincerity. He is staying in touch with lawmakers, including former school board member Cheri Helt, R-Bend, making the argument that Bend-La Pine and other districts are badly strapped for funds.
While Mikalson’s request that district employees work as usual May 8 might rub some of them the wrong way, it’s a reasonable request. As he notes in his message to them, for some number of their students, school is the only safe and welcoming place they have. And, he offers to join with the district’s 2,100 employees in fighting for what they say they need.
Teachers and other staff should take him up on that. Their willingness to stay on the job yet continue to fight together will send a powerful message to residents of the school district and to Salem, as well.