OSBA convention adds urgency to call for revenue reform
Throughout OSBA’s 72nd Annual Convention, attendees affirmed their personal commitment to revenue reform advocacy with pictures for all to see at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront. (Photo by Alex Pulaski, OSBA)
OSBA’s 72nd Annual Convention offered a clear message: Oregon needs revenue reform for education, the time to act is now and our children deserve it. All of them.
“We’re done waiting for things to happen,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green during the Friday opening session. “We want things done differently in 2019.”
Green called on board members to help OSBA advocate for adequate, stable and reliable education funding. He said he had never seen momentum for change like he has seen this year. The newly elected Democratic legislative supermajority presents an opportunity for bold moves, and the Joint Interim Committee on Student Success has opened eyes to schools’ funding needs. Committee members are publicly calling for increased school funding.
“We need to infuse at least $2 billion in education to make a difference,” committee Co-Chair Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, told a conference breakfast audience.
OSBA and education stakeholders around the state are aiming for the $10.7 billion in the 2019-21 Quality Education Model, a nonpartisan biennial report on best practices for Oregon education.
OSBA has committed $1.5 million to a 2018-19 legislative advocacy campaign for revenue reform and cost containment, including polling and upcoming town halls and advocacy days in the Capitol.
“Our goal is a sustained drumbeat for education funding,” said Jake Weigler, a consultant managing OSBA’s advocacy campaign.
More than 600 school board members, administrators and district staff attended the preconferences and conference Thursday through Sunday at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront.
The conference offered workshops and resources to enlist school board members in revenue advocacy, including texting “schools” to 40649 to receive campaign updates. A wall display in the main conference area allowed members to make personal declarations of action and support.
OSBA kicked off the weekend’s events with the Advocacy Preconference on Thursday. Attendees learned about the current political winds, voter tendencies and how to lobby effectively.
A panel of legislators – Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio; Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard; and Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro – reminded the audience that although ideologies might differ, there is common ground to build on.
“We have good people on both sides who care about kids,” Doherty told the crowd.
OSBA also unveiled a video explaining Oregon’s recent education funding history, the Student Success Committee’s work and why Oregon needs revenue reform now.
The audience applauded Senate President Peter Courtney declaring in the video: “This is do or die time!”
Beaverton School Board Chair Becky Tymchuk said the video captivated and motivated her and she plans to use it as a community education piece.
“It can’t be just parents and school board members talking to legislators about education funding,” she said.
Although revenue reform was on everyone’s minds, the OSBA convention remained ultimately about educating board members and helping kids. Workshops ranged from school board governance to education issues such as trauma-informed practices, chronic absenteeism and student mental health. Materials from the workshops are available on OSBA’s website with a login.
“Our schools truly reflect how we feel about our children and our hope for the future,” she said. “I want our schools to be the best of who we are as a community.”
Saturday speaker North Clackamas Superintendent Matt Utterback, 2017 National Superintendent of the Year, credited a sustained focus on equity for raising his district’s graduation rate and closing the achievement gap. He said all students need to know they are important, cared about and supported.
The 2019 Oregon Superintendent of the Year, Tim Sweeney of the Coquille School District, spoke of the need to help “those kids,” the ones derided as problems and failures.
“Those kids’ deserve so much more,” he said.
Equity also shaped the message from Churchill High School Health Occupations educator Keri Pilgrim Ricker, Oregon’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. She spoke of giving students from all backgrounds opportunities and support to succeed.
“Be someone’s lighthouse,” she said.
OSBA Board President-elect Tass Morrison (North Santiam SD) returned to the funding issues during the closing session and again called on members to join her in changing the long-running cycle of inadequate school funding.
“I’m going to make my voice heard with my neighbors, my friends, on social media and in the Capitol,” she said.
Fossil School Board member Marie Mallory said the weekend had been well worth it.
“I have a lot of information to take back to my board,” she said.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA