Umatilla Schools United in Quest for Stable and Adequate School Funding

school funding letters in red

When Oregon’s economy was struggling, educators in Umatilla worked together to balance reduced budgets. Over the years, Umatilla cut positions and reduced expenses due to budget constraints. Employees at every level voluntarily took pay freezes and cut paid work days to create the best opportunities for students possible in tough economic times. Today, Oregon’s economy is strong, yet Oregon is still ranked 29th in the United States for per-student funding.

Locally, support for Umatilla schools is strong. Voters passed a bond for facilities in 2016 and give generously to fundraisers for students. Oregon’s funding structure relies heavily on State funding to provide the core financial support for schools through the State School Fund which has continually funded schools below the level identified through the Quality Education Model for Oregon. Umatilla schools still haven’t been restored to pre-recession levels for staffing positions nor supply budgets. Additionally, educator pay has not kept up with inflation. Locally, a first year teacher in 2008 earned $32,418. Ten years later, a first year teacher earns $36,682- a full $1,126 less than inflation based on the Oregon Employment Department inflation calculator.

Umatilla educators understood the need to work together and make sacrifices when the economy struggled. Now that Oregon’s economy is strong, the Umatilla School Board and employees are united in the quest for stable and adequate school funding. In addition to providing information to legislators, they are encouraging the community to learn more about school funding by reminding them to think about education when people see Umatilla School Board members and educators wearing “Red for Ed” t-shirts on Tuesdays for the remainder of legislative session. UEA President, Mary Buckallew, states, “We hope the ‘Red for Ed’ t-shirts will inspire our community to learn more about school funding and help us gain more resources for students.”

Recently, the District gathered input from staff and community members via survey to identify funding priorities should additional funds be received from legislature. “The feedback we received helped us identify community values for educational priorities in Umatilla. We used this information to develop informational posters for our legislators,” stated Superintendent Heidi Sipe. May 8th, Umatilla Schools will host a “Walk In Their Shoes” event. Community members are invited in to hear budget updates and spend the day with a student followed by an opportunity to help administration identify the strengths and needs of Umatilla schools. Interested community members are encouraged to contact Heidi Sipe at or via phone at 541-922-6500 for a background check form and further information.

To read more, please see the Invest in Our Future Flyer.

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