A Seat At The Table: OSEA Members Speak Up For Classified Roles On State Education Boards & Commissions

OSEA members have front-line expertise on what Oregon schools and students need. It is common sense for classified school employees to be included on the boards and commissions that set education policy. Team OSEA was at the Capitol on Thursday, April 20, speaking to the Senate Committee on Education in support of House Bill (HB) 3383, which would create a new seat on the State Board of Education for a classified staff member. Historically, state commissions have included licensed and administrative staff, parents and community members — but excluded classified.

Members testifying before the committee included Everice Moro of ROSE, Constance Palaia-Marr of Three Rivers Chapter 22 and Patricia Rodrigues of Beaverton Chapter 48, supported by Government Relations Specialist Susan Allen. Jennifer Ford of David Douglas Chapter 40 submitted written testimony before the hearing. Members reported that testifying before the committee on a bill which has the potential to impact educators and students statewide was empowering.

“OSEA has reached a defining moment this session. The legislators I encountered were curious, and surprised to hear about the lives and work of classified employees,” said Palaia-Marr. “I felt there was finally a realization that we are truly indispensable, and our work is hard, under-appreciated and under-compensated. Our testimony was compelling and enlightening. I witnessed such eloquence, passion and caring from my OSEA colleagues and know we made a huge impact.”

Moro, a retiree and active ROSE member who has spoken to legislators countless times over the course of her career, said it is always a good experience. “I’m always pleased to speak on behalf of our OSEA members to the people who are in elected positions — some of whom OSEA helped get to those positions,” Moro said. “I can be a reminder of that help and the great work we can do together.”

Rodrigues said she wants lawmakers to understand how important education workers are to the entire state, and why our voices should be included in policy decisions. “We classified professionals provide a crucial function in the world of learning. Legislators constructed policies based on their assumptions, and we need to share our perspective to help shape legislation. Laws are made by those who are willing to participate,” said Rodrigues.

HB 3383 has already passed the Oregon House with broad bipartisan support. Two members of the House, Rep. Hoa Nguyen (D-Portland) and Rep. Boomer Wright (R-Coos Bay) also testified to the Senate Committee on Education in support of the measure.

“It is my pleasure to testify on HB 3383 on behalf of my support for our amazing classified staffs,” Rep. Wright said. “As I mentioned in my testimony, classified are the backbone of any school and district. As such, they have more than earned the right to be included on committees at the state and local levels. I look forward to working with members of our classified staffs as we strive to ensure we always do what is in the best interests of our students. And as I have stated before, it is about darn time!”

Rep. Nguyen, a classified worker in Portland Public Schools, concurred, saying “Classified employees have the institutional and experiential knowledge that is key to tailoring programs better suited for our students and will be a critical partner in identifying culturally informed solutions. There are no better experts on implementing state education policy. It is high time to recognize classified staff as the education professionals we are, who love our jobs and take pride in supporting all of Oregon’s students.”