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Lawmakers Weigh In on Possible Strike

Senator Alan Bates, Rep. Sal Esquivel and Rep. Peter Buckley released a joint statement on Thursday regarding the ongoing conflict between the Medford School District and Medford Education Association:

We are asking both the Medford School District and the Medford Teachers Association to return to negotiations on Friday, and to continue to work until they reach a resolution on the areas where they are still in disagreement.

We have a track record of being able to reach principled compromise, and we are united in our view that a strike will not benefit our students, our teachers, the Medford School District, our community and our region. We believe all involved have the same goal—excellent education for our students along with respect and fair compensation for the teachers we all depend on.

We understand both the financial and the personal dynamics involved. Senator Bates spent 10 years on a school board prior to his election to the legislature. Rep. Esquivel has been in contract negotiations on the management side, and Rep. Buckley has been involved from the labor side. All three of us have wrestled with finding common ground on statewide issues in Salem for over a decade now.

The legislative intent behind our work to increase funding for K-12 education in the 2013-15 budget was to turn around our disinvestment in education caused by the recession, and to begin to build again. Our goal was and is to add back teachers, add back days and add back programs—but also to give full respect and fair compensation to the teachers who are the backbone of our K-12 schools, and who have personally sacrificed over the past several years.

It is a hard balance to achieve. Again, we did everything we could to provide resources towards those goals, including politically toxic votes on a number of issues impacting education funding. Our overriding goal was principled compromise in order to do everything we could to give our kids the educational opportunities they deserve.

The district’s stated goal of reducing class sizes and reducing the accompanying workload for teachers is a goal all involved share. The students can thrive with greater access to their teachers, and the burnout factor for teachers is decreased as we move towards lower class sizes.

The teachers’ need to be acknowledged for their work, for their recent sacrifices and for adequate compensation in return for long-term concessions on pension and health care is also absolutely worthy of support.

We take great pride in southern Oregon’s ability to come together and work things out in an inclusive, bipartisan manner. We ask that the district and the teachers’ association step back from any hard line positions and return to negotiations with a willingness to find workable solutions to the remaining issues to be settled. We are ready to do whatever we can to assist, and have offered information on state budget projections, health care trends and potential paths to a positive compromise.

We’re willing to help any way we can. We ask both sides to come back to negotiations, find principled compromises they can support, and bring this conflict to an end.