OSEA Members Fill the Capitol to Speak Up for Education Workers

Governor Tina Kotek signed a proclamation declaring March 6 to March 10 “Classified School Employees Week” with the OSEA Board of Directors and Government Relations Committee looking on. From left to right: Zone I Director Chelsea Shotts, Zone IV Director Sheila Waggoner, Zone II Director April Biancone, Zone III Director Sella Bemrose, OSEA President Sarah Wofford, Secretary Mary Hofer, Gov. Tina Kotek, Zone VI Director Lori Cole, Delores Piersol of ROSE, Government Relations Committee Chair Misty Talerico and Zone V Director Lisa March.

Close to 100 OSEA members from across the state gathered in Salem on Sunday to Monday, March 5 to March 6, for OSEA’s Legislative Education Day (LED). The 2-day advocacy event began with a day of intensive training on Sunday. Members dove into OSEA’s legislative priorities and practiced speaking to lawmakers. Monday was a whirlwind of small-group meetings with state lawmakers and their staff — an important opportunity for OSEA members to share their personal stories from the front lines of education.

“It was amazing to stand in the hallway of our State Capitol and see proud members wearing blue OSEA T-shirts in every direction,” said OSEA President Sarah Wofford.

Issues ranging from better support for special education staff to education funding to equal access to unemployment benefits are all on the table this legislative session. When deciding how to vote on these issues, it is important for lawmakers to hear from Oregonians with first-hand expertise, like OSEA members.

“LED is about growing relationships. Seeds were planted, seeds were watered and seeds were harvested,” said Misty Talerico of Tillamook Chapter 28, chair of OSEA’s Government Relations Committee. “We planted the seeds of new relationships with lawmakers, strengthened relationships we had already started and now we harvest the impact when lawmakers truly see what OSEA members need and why we matter.” In addition to building relationships with elected officials, Talerico says a highlight of LED was the number of members who participated in the event for the first time.

In addition to sharing our own stories with lawmakers, LED participants were able to hear from guest speakers. Governor Tina Kotek kicked Monday off by signing a proclamation declaring March 6-10, 2023, “Classified School Employees Week” on the stage as OSEA members watched. Additional speakers included State Treasurer Tobias Read, Labor Commissioner Christina Stephenson and State Representatives Courtney Neron, Hao Nguyen, Ben Bowman and Jules Walters.

“It isn’t always easy to tell our stories. The challenges we are facing are emotional and touch us deeply, whether it’s injuries from students or burnout related to severe staffing shortages,” Pres. Wofford said. “It takes courage to speak truth to power and I am so proud of every OSEA member who showed up, spoke up and made sure education workers are seen and heard.”

Visit our Flickr page for photos from LED 2023.