2023 Legislative Priorities

Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) members work together in many ways to improve our schools, working conditions, and communities. During the 2023 Legislative Session, we are collaborating with elected representatives to pass laws addressing some of the most critical education and labor issues of our time: workers’ basic rights and funding Oregon’s future.

Sound good to you? There are lots of ways to support OSEA’s member-led advocacy on behalf of education workers.

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Workers’ Basic Rights

Just Cause for All

No worker should be fired without justification. Many OSEA chapters have bargained for “just cause” protections, requiring employers to demonstrate a clear process and adequate reason for employee discipline, up to and including termination. But there are still many members in the public sector working in good faith without just cause protection. This effectively makes them “at will” employees who can be fired at any time for almost any reason.

It is time for the state to ensure all education employees have the peace of mind they deserve by implementing “Just Cause for All.”

Equal Access to Unemployment Benefits

In recent years, OSEA has won access to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for custodial, facilities, maintenance, food service, pre-kindergarten and early intervention education workers. It’s time for the Legislature to expand access to all education workers!

Right now, desperately needed bus drivers, special education assistants and other classifications are unable to access UI benefits during school breaks if their employer claims they have “reasonable assurance” of a return to work in the fall. Public school employees should not be barred from accessing the benefits available to any other type of Oregon worker – including private school employees and education contractors.

Representation on Boards & Commissions

As front-line education workers, OSEA members have key perspectives on issues in the education sector, particularly regarding the implementation of state policies. Our expertise is invaluable. We should be included on state policy boards and commissions (where licensed and administrative staff, parents and community members are already represented). Appointing classified school employees to these positions will provide insight on education policy and improve the education system and governance in Oregon.

Funding Oregon’s Future

Sustainable K to 12 Funding

The most effective way to support students – physically, mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, and academically – is by supporting our current education workforce. Oregon must show that public education jobs can be high-quality jobs again. Student needs have become more numerous and more severe during the pandemic, with families navigating homelessness, food insecurity, access and inclusion, and more institutional barriers. Lawmakers must respond by investing in the educators needed to support all of Oregon’s kids.

The best education comes from dedicated professionals like OSEA members. We work in education because we love our students. But the statewide staffing crisis places educators, especially classified, at risk, while undermining student success.

The best way to keep the educators we have and recruit new workers is to fund the actual cost of the current educational services provided and pay workers living wages with benefits. Years of unrealistic budget estimates have artificially lowered the current service level budget for K-12 schools. So it’s no surprise that districts have struggled to recruit and retain high-quality educators. The pandemic made that struggle a full-blown crisis.

Support Package for Classified Working with Special Education Students

Educators who support special education (SPED) students are much more likely to be injured on the job. Oregon can do better to provide equal education to all students with special needs by supporting the front-line workers who are hands-on caregivers to some of our most medically and economically fragile students. To deliver the best education for all, employees who support SPED need:

  • Access to relevant information, including individual education plans (IEPs) and paid time to prepare for working with the assigned students
  • Access to adequate training and appropriate equipment
  • Compensation at a level that is competitive with other industries and reflective of the skill needed to do this work well — including a pay differential that increases with skill level to recognize the challenges in these positions
  • Minimum staffing levels to support these critical front-line workers and, more importantly, to ensure all students, including students with the most significant needs, are supported

Oregon schools are struggling to recruit and retain classified staff, especially those who support special education. The state needs to invest in SPED now, to ensure we can provide the quality education and respect our students and educators deserve. This special education support package will strengthen both students and staff.