A letter signed by 13 current and former community leaders supporting Salem-Keizer Public Schools and urging union members to take the current financial issues the district is facing into consideration during bargaining was sent to the school board, SKPS, the Salem-Keizer Educators Association, the Association of Salem Keizer Education Support Professionals and media outlets on Tuesday.
“As business, education and civic leaders, we are all deeply invested in our local public school system,” the letter stated. “We write today to express our continued support for the Salem-Keizer School Board and Superintendent Andrea Castañeda as they continue to try to reach a bargaining agreement with the Salem-Keizer Education Association and the Association of Salem Keizer Education Support Professionals as well as prepare for significant budget cuts.”
Among the signatures are former SKPS superintendent Christy Perry, Marion and Polk County Early Learning Hub Executive Director Lisa Harnisch and former assistant attorney general and Oregon Department of Justice lawyer Bonnie Heitsch.
The letter can be found below:
December 12, 2023
School Board Members
ASK ESP Leadership
As Superintendent Castañeda has stated publicly, “we all agree that educators deserve a raise.” At the same time, our schools face a projected budget shortfall of at least $38 million for the next school year.
As business, education and civic leaders, we are all deeply invested in our local public school system.
We write today to express our continued support for the Salem-Keizer School Board andSuperintendent Andrea Castañeda as they continue to try to reach a bargaining agreement with the Salem-Keizer Education Association and the Association of Salem Keizer Education Support Professionals as well as prepare for significant budget cuts.
Our community’s economic success is tied to a thriving school system. Rarely have our students had such a pressing need for us to come together on their behalf – particularly as they and our dedicated educators struggle to overcome the pandemic’s dire effects. We know the last several years have been extremely challenging and we recognize the continued commitment and hard work of our educators and support staff.
Our schools depend on the state for funding – much as we conduct our household finances, they can only spend as much money as they have in the bank. Oregon schools are legally required to pass a balanced budget, and the district simply cannot afford the union’s salary demands.
Superintendent Castañeda has already begun the arduous process of analyzing the district’s budget and determining where reductions will be taken. We know that cuts of this magnitude will touch every corner of our school system and have a profound impact on students, staff and the community.
All of us, who have signed this letter, have been in leadership positions ourselves. We clearly understand the pressures facing the current school board and Superintendent. As the leaders of our district, please know we have confidence in your leadership, and we support and appreciate your service to our community and our children.
Our community holds a rich history of working together to resolve the challenges that face us. Salem, Keizer and its residents have been emblematic of the can-do attitude of all Oregonians.
For the sake of our students, we urge the educators and support staff to consider the financial bind our schools are in and reach a reasonable agreement that the district can afford.
For the sake of our students, we urge the school board to do all in its power to direct scarce resources in ways that recognize the vital value of our educators and support staff.