For too long, classified school employees have been denied access to unemployment benefits when we are laid off, unless we can prove we have no “reasonable assurance” of returning to work after a school break. This creates an unequal, two-tiered system which blocks some of the lowest-paid public workers in the state from an essential financial safety net — available to every other type of public worker. But no longer.
Hundreds of OSEA members have spoken up about this issue for decades. Lawmakers were finally pushed to do the right thing and reform the unemployment system to provide equal access to classified. When SB 489 goes into effect in January 2024, all K-12 classified will be able to access benefits based on the same criteria as any other type of worker, giving thousands of members and our families peace of mind each summer.
Education workers across the state are overstressed and under-compensated. Poor job quality, in the form of low pay, abbreviated shifts and lack of job security, has made Oregon’s current school staffing crisis worse — districts are struggling to recruit and retain quality staff for jobs that pay less and offer less security than the local fast food restaurant. OSEA members took action to back a “workforce omnibus” bill designed to improve working conditions and quality of life for school employees. SB 283 covers many issues we have fought for years to win, including:
Job security through just cause, meaning staff in K-12 school districts and education service districts (ESDs) cannot be unfairly disciplined or terminated
An ongoing work group to create a minimum wage floor for school employees across Oregon
The bill includes additional measures to support special education staff, explained in the next section.
Better working conditions, job security, hours and pay will improve the quality of life for OSEA members. Over the long term, it will also make jobs like ours more desirable, ease the workforce shortage and ultimately improve the education of all Oregon students.
Classified staff are on the front lines of education every day. We are the first people students see in the morning and the ones who get them safely home at the end of the day — and we are the ones ensuring a safe and welcoming learning environment all day long. We have important insights into the needs of our schools, students and educators.
For the first time in history, classified staff will be represented on the four boards and commissions that shape education policy in Oregon. We will join the teachers, administrators, parents and community members currently represented on these boards. Finally, our voices will be included.
Oregon schools couldn’t open their doors without classified. In classrooms, buses, offices, libraries, cafeterias and playgrounds, we keep students safe and help them learn. Now, the Legislature has created a law that names the first full week in March “Classified School Employees Week.” We no longer need a special proclamation from the governor each year. This week-long celebration of classified professionals provides much-needed recognition for the hardest working staff in our schools. It also raises awareness in our communities about who we are, what we do and why we are essential for quality education.