Student Success Committee peering at education from every angle
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner and a member of the Student Success Committee, meets with Derek McBride, a student at Hermiston High School. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
The Joint Interim Committee on Student Success is getting a “360-degree view” of Oregon education, according to Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, the committee co-chair.
Committee members met with students, educators and community leaders Wednesday in Hermiston and toured Morrow and Pendleton school district programs and the Umatilla Morrow Head Start.
The bipartisan committee is traveling Oregon to gather ideas for a legislative plan to adequately fund K-12 public schools while improving Oregon education.
Nineteen students from a half-dozen area schools were the first community members to meet with legislators Wednesday.
“Students bring you a perspective you’re not going to get from touring schools or talking to community members,” said Smith Warner (D-Portland).
Meeting in small groups, legislators asked students about everything from the quality of school lunches to the need for child care so older siblings can attend class. Students touched on issues such as internet access, career and technical education, discrimination and school safety.
Ken Bevan, a Stanfield Secondary School senior, asked for more help preparing to become an adult.
“We should have more electives that are real world, such as learning how to do our taxes,” he said.
Later in the day, the committee met with local education, community and business leaders.
Weston Mayor Jennifer Spurgeon, Athena-Weston School Board vice chair and OSBA Legislative Policy Committee member, said Oregon schools are struggling under many of the same burdens: Public Employees Retirement System costs, school security demands, student social-emotional needs and mandated testing.
Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) agreed the tour is shaping legislators’ understanding of Oregon education. She said it was enlightening to compare how communities view their schools with how educators see them.
“We’re getting a very real picture of what is going on in schools,” Sprenger said.
Committee member Greg Smith, the region’s Republican representative, discussed the symbiotic relationship between schools and business.
“Industry supports education; education supports industry,” he said.
Athena-Weston School Board Chair Scott Rogers, a member of the OSBA board, said the meetings were also a chance for educators to gain the legislators’ perspective and share regional ideas with each other.
Rogers returned to the underlying issue for all the meetings: revenue reform. Schools need adequate and stable funding with local decision-making, he said.
“We want to get out of constantly chasing grants,” Rogers said.