Maureen Twomey is retiring at the end of this school year after a 20-year career. Currently an English teacher at Lebanon High School, she's worked for several different districts in Oregon. And everywhere she's gone, one part of the experience has remained constant.
"I have never once, not one year that I've worked, ever had ... full funding for our public schools. We've had furlough days, we've had RIFs (reductions in force), we've had freezes on hiring, freezes on supplies, step freezes on salary schedules," Twomey said, adding that while some years have been better than others, "government has never fully funded us."
That is why she joined her Lebanon Community Schools colleagues Wednesday afternoon in a public rally along Main Street and Airport Road. More than 70 teachers, administrators and support personnel attended the event, which was held in support of the Student Success Act.
That funding bill would allot $2 billion for the state's K-12 educational system. The funds would be generated by a new business tax. At some districts around the state, rallies were held at least in part during the school day. Lebanon's rally did not begin until 4 p.m., after the instructional day was concluded.
"I think it's very considerate of our staff to not put parents and kids in a difficult situation so they're out here on their own time to kind of push the message that we really want to get improved funding for schools and have a model that really works for us," said Bo Yates, the superintendent of Lebanon Community Schools.
Yates noted that this debate over school funding comes at a time when the economy is the strongest it's been in years.
"This is the best our economy has been and we're not seeing any improvement in school funding. That formula just doesn't work for us," Yates said.
Based on the current estimates for school funding for the coming school year, Lebanon expects to reduce staffing by 20 to 30 full-time positions. Yates said this will be done through attrition and not layoffs and will be spread evenly between classified and certified staffs, with reductions of 10 to 15 positions each.
If the Legislature finds a way to increase funding for schools, those reductions may not be necessary.
"We're hopeful, but we have to base our budget on reality and the best figures we have right now. It's a crazy thing to have to budget without knowing how much money you are going to get, so we have to use a pretty conservative approach," Yates said.