Rep. Johnson brings school board perspective to the Capitol
Monday, May 6, 2013
State Rep. Mark Johnson
As a general contractor, State Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) knows how important a firm foundation is to building a sound home.
And in tending to this home we all share in Oregon, Johnson says it’s important to shore up the foundation found in our public education system. That’s why he is advocating increased funding for K-12 education, along with a host of other issues also backed by the Oregon School Boards Association.
Johnson’s support for OSBA and its members is no surprise: He’s one of two state legislators who concurrently serve on their local school boards (the other is Shemia Fagan, David Douglas School Board and D-Clackamas).
Johnson first ran for school board as an extension of his experience in service clubs and coaching. He is a product of Hood River County public schools, as are his three children.
He also wanted to bring his business experience to bear on decisions made by the school board.
“There have been multiple times when I’ve been able to use my practical knowledge on issues such as construction levies and bond levies,” he said.
Johnson is running unopposed this month for his third term on the Hood River County School Board. Over the past eight years, he said, the challenges facing districts have shifted substantially.
“From a budget standpoint we were so much more stable than we are now,” he said. “It used to be that we could choose the programs we wanted to invest in. Now, with the current economic situation, we’re basically in survival mode trying to maintain the status quo.”
One of the votes he is most proud of during his school board tenure is supporting a transition to a full-day kindergarten throughout the district. Even in the face of recent budget cuts, that’s one asset the district has been able to hang on to.
One of the primary reasons he ran for the Legislature, Johnson says, was that as a school board member he had “been on the receiving end of a lot of lousy policies from Salem at the local level.”
Johnson, now in his second term in the House, says he wants to ensure that legislators take into account the perspectives from school boards.
He agrees with many of his colleagues in recognizing that reform of the Public Employees Retirement System is the biggest issue before the Legislature this session.
“Until we can address the major cost driver that is eroding school budgets, our students are going to be the victims,” he said.
He originally campaigned on and continues to believe in the notion that Oregon’s economic prosperity and public education system are inextricably linked.
“I think it's opened the eyes of a lot of folks to see a Republican as an advocate for education,” he said. “But you can’t very well have a competent workforce without a thriving public education system.
“And without a strong economy you can’t sustain that thriving public education system. The key to our state’s economic growth is first and foremost making sure our public education system is performing as it needs to.”