May 8 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of teachers, students parents and other supporters in Oregon are planning a statewide walkout on Wednesday to rally for more education funding -- following a lead taken by tens of thousands of other educators nationwide.
The protests, organized by the Oregon Education Association, seek nearly $11 billion in new funding from the state for K-12 schools in Oregon and another $787 million for its community colleges.
Additionally, educators hope the walkout will motivate state lawmakers to pass the Student Success Act, a proposal that would provide $2 billion for K-12 schools every two years. The bill passed the Oregon House 37-21 last week.
"If the legislature is able to fully fund their Student Success Act, we could make game-changing investments in all students, including students of color, low-income students and students from other historically disadvantaged backgrounds," said Oregon Education Association President John Larson.
The union says Oregon has the largest average class size in the United States, the third-lowest high school graduation rate and a shortage of librarians, nurses and counselors in state schools. Art, music and physical education classes have been cut, and nearly 95 percent of Oregon teachers have spent their own money on class supplies.
Protesters will rally Wednesday in some of the state's largest cities -- Portland, Eugene, Medford, Bend, Klamath Falls and at the state Capitol in Salem. Schools in more than two dozen Oregon districts will close or end classes early because there aren't enough replacement workers. Some districts have arranged for free breakfast and lunches, despite the closures.
To compensate for the closures, some districts will extend the school year by one day and others will swap Wednesday's school day with a planned teacher development day. Other schools plan to hold alternative events during or after-school hours that would allow them to remain open for the day.
Some districts, including the one in Eugene, have said they don't support the teachers' plan.
"Eugene School District 4J shares the goal of improving school funding in Oregon to provide smaller class sizes, more learning time, increased health and safety services and well-rounded education. However, the district does not endorse or condone walkout strikes or any activity that disrupts student learning," the district said.
The protests follow similar demonstrations made by tens of thousands of other teachers nationwide over the last 18 months. Educators in South Carolina held a "Day of Reflection" last week to draw attention to a need for more funding. That event, they said, was not a walkout -- but rather coordinated leave intended to improve the state's education infrastructure. Teachers have held similar rallies -- most successfully -- in other major locations, including Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky.