On April 24, the Oregon Senate approved HB 2708 to create an annual Classified School Employees Week during the first full week in March. This seemingly simple nod from Oregon’s legislative assembly underscores the importance of classified education professionals in Oregon’s education system.
HB 2708 is supported by education workers, including the state’s largest union of professional classified education workers, Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA), as well as Coalition of School Administrators (COSA), Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) and Oregon Education Association (OEA).
“The education of all Oregon’s youth is imperative to our state and to our nation; professional classified school employees the heart of that education. Classified employees are trained and dedicated professionals who are completely essential to our schools. In a typical elementary school day, the ratio of classified public education staff to licensed staff is roughly 7 to 1,” said Sarah Wofford, OSEA state president.
“As professionals and educators, classified employees perform many of the vital duties daily that keep Oregon public schools safe and functional for students, administrators and teachers,” said Representative Courtney Neron, Chair of the Oregon House Committee on Education.
“These critical, frontline workers are the most diverse component of our professional education workforce and are the most reflective of the communities that they serve. As such, classified workers are often overcoming systemic barriers both in the workplace and in their daily lives,” continued Representative Neron, who has first-hand experience as a former high school teacher.
“All of our positions individually and collectively are a vital component of Oregon’s public school system. We are typically the first in and the last out of our schools and education service districts on any given school day,” said Wofford.
“Classified school employees are a huge part in the school day for our kids. They are the friendly face that can brighten a student’s day, and they ensure that our education system works for everyone. Classified Employees Week is one way we can honor and celebrate all the ways they make our schools welcoming and safe for students,” said Oregon State Treasurer, Tobias Read.
The term classified employees refers to nearly all education professionals who are not four-year licensed teachers or administrators. Here is an abbreviated list of positions which include: special education, general education, medical, library and health assistants; media specialists; secretaries and clerical staff; interpreters; bus drivers and transportation staff; nutrition services; information technology workers; custodial and facilities staff; before- and after-school caregivers; campus monitors; safety and transition specialists.
Having received an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of votes in the Oregon House (51 to 6) of Representatives and votes in the Oregon Senate (26-3), HB 2708 now heads to the desk of Oregon Governor Tina Kotek.