Students gather in Salem for anti-lobbying day

Thousands of teachers, students and supporters gathered on Feb. 18 outside the Capitol Building in Salem for the March for our Students, a rally organized by the Oregon Education Association to convince lawmakers to invest more in public education.

Members of the Associated Students of Portland State University attended the march to protest tuition increases at PSU. ASPSU has refused to lobby the state congress this year for additional funding for PSU until the university agrees to a tuition freeze.

The march made its way around the Capitol Building and the Oregon State Capitol State Park. Notable speakers included Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and Representative Diego Hernandez.

Sangi Lama/Portland State Vanguard
Demonstrators gather in front of the Capitol Building in Salem, Oregon on Feb. 18. Alex Kirk Amen/PSU Vanguard

“We wanted to make it obvious that we weren’t lobbying alongside the [PSU] administration, and it wasn’t because we’re apathetic or don’t agree that we require more state funding—we absolutely do,” said ASPSU Legislative Affairs Director Camilo Abreu A. “Our perspective is that we need an even higher level of funding than [the PSU administration] is fighting for.”

Members of ASPSU who attended the rally did not interact directly with Oregon legislators, according to ASPSU President Luis Balderas Villagrana. Balderas Villagrana added, “There is currently no specific bill about the tuition freeze but it sounds like Rep. Hernandez is working on it.”

ASPSU, students and teachers across the state can expect changes in this legislative session.

The Joint Committee on Student Success released an outline of state priorities in public education on Jan. 28, 2018. The outline addressed classroom size and quality, college and career readiness and students being ready and able to learn. These policy recommendations are estimated to cost up to $3 billion.

Gov. Kate Brown has said that education is a priority for this legislative session and both the Oregon House of Representatives and the Oregon Senate have introduced multiple bills relating to education funding, class sizes and quality control.

Following the march, teachers, students and OEA organizers filled the Capitol Building to talk to their representatives and drop off written testimony addressing school funding, classroom size, tuition and other important issues.