First 2019 Lobby Day delivers personal messages of education funding needs
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Oregonians for Student Success Lobby Day attendees gathered in the Senate gallery before being recognized by Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie, during “courtesies” at the start of the Tuesday session. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
School board members, administrators and parents personally took the school funding message to legislators Tuesday during the first of OSBA’s Oregonians for Student Success Lobby Days.
“We’ve come down to make a difference,” said Colton School Board Chair Tim Behrens. “If you don’t show up at the table, you don’t have a voice. We’re here to fight for our schools.”
Legislators are working out the details of potentially significant education reforms now, and Oregonians for Student Success is bringing education advocates to the Capitol to influence that debate. The campaign has partnered with the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators to put on a series of lobby days to advocate for adequate and stable school funding.
The lobby days are arranged by regions so attendees can meet their legislators, but concerned Oregonians can sign up for any that are convenient. Tuesday’s event focused on Multnomah and Clackamas counties, and the next one, Feb. 19, will be for Oregon coast residents. RSVP so the campaign can set up individual meeting schedules with legislators.
Attendees receive pointers on how to effectively talk with legislators, and they have an opportunity to discuss with lobbyists the issues that need to be brought to legislators’ attention. Attendees are also recognized during a session in the House or Senate chamber.
In addition to appointments with legislators, Tuesday’s group met with House Speaker Tina Kotek.
Colton Superintendent Koreen Barreras-Brown said Kotek indicated legislators would be drawing on districts to find solutions as the legislators explore how and where to invest additional education money.
“There will be strings attached so we will have to show some sort of accountability,” Barreras-Brown said.
She said she committed to attending a lobby day to give voice to the needs of rural schools.
Barreras-Brown is among those advocating for a collaborative approach to funding and accountability measures, such as has been used with Measure 98. The High School Success Fund lets schools create their own plans within the framework of addressing dropout prevention, college readiness or career and technical education.
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Student Success has been exploring types of categorical funding to balance local control with state oversight.
North Clackamas School Board member Mitzi Bauer wanted to remind legislators that after so many years of underfunding, it will take time to rebuild programs and show results.
Jake Weigler, a political consultant who is guiding the campaign, encouraged advocates to make the school funding issues personal, sharing stories from their districts.
Centennial School District Superintendent Paul Coakley said that although many districts’ education needs are aligned, there are important differences.
He leads a smaller district in an urban area. His district faces high poverty and has been unable to pass a bond. Coakley said he doesn’t have the facility space to add classes so hiring teachers to reduce class sizes isn’t a practical use of funding in his district. He would like the Legislature to help address the student realities of individual districts.
“The timing is good to make up for years of underfunding,” he said.