Public education advocacy conference attendees make their case in Washington
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Oregon’s delegates to the National School Boards Association’s 2020 Advocacy Institute also get to see some of the Washington, D.C., sights in between sessions and congressional visits. (Photo by Mary Paulson, OSBA)
The National School Boards Association’s 2020 Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C., brought together hundreds of school board members from across the country to learn, share ideas and press the nation’s representatives to make the best decisions for students.
On Sunday and Monday, sessions covered the political landscape and education issues including equity, census implications and mental health. With the State of the Union on Tuesday night, attendees were warned they would need to be well-prepared to hold legislators’ attention during personal meetings.
Oregon’s contingent, which included OSBA staff and school board members, reported positive receptions.
“Our members are excited and energized to tell their stories to Congress to make the case for additional funding to meet our federal responsibilities,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green. “While we are a small state, we have a vote, and our representatives need to hear how their work impacts the kids in Oregon.”
This year the conference messages for lawmakers were focused on securing great teachers, fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, safe and healthy schools, bridging the digital divide in learning, and public education investments for the future.
Green added that Congress needs to make public schools part of infrastructure spending considerations.
“Our schools are used for more than just providing education for kids,” he said.
Oregon’s group also emphasized rural schools funding. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, passed in 2000, provides money for rural counties and schools in Western states affected by declining timber harvests on national forest lands.
The funding lapsed in 2016, and since then it has had one- and two-year renewals. It is projected to provide $11.5 million for Oregon schools for 2018-19. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, are working on providing long-term stability through the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act. OSBA, the Oregon Association of Counties and similar organizations from other Western states have been advocating for a permanent funding source.
OSBA Board President Kevin Cassidy (Baker School Board) received a surprise invitation to attend the State of the Union as the guest of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.
Cassidy said the Oregon delegation has been talking about how federal money and mandates will intersect with the Student Success Act, which will provide an additional $1 billion a year for Oregon pre-K-12 public education.
Congressional members, especially Merkley, are interested in supporting student mental health, one of the act’s priorities, Cassidy said. Federal money can also help train the teachers that districts will need for the act and support career and technical education efforts.
“All of those things allow us to take those Student Success Act resources deeper,” Cassidy said.
Green said he, too, has spent time talking about the act, and other states want to know how Oregon did it.
“Other school board members from around the nation are jealous of what we did,” Green said.
The OSBA contingent included OSBA Board President-elect Maureen Wolf (Tigard-Tualatin), Vice President Liz Hartman (Lake Oswego), Secretary-Treasurer Scott Rogers (Athena-Weston) and Past President Tass Morrison (North Santiam); OSBA Board members Greg Kintz (Vernonia) and Melissa LaCrosse (Jefferson); OSBA Board members and Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus leadership Linda Hamilton (Lane ESD) and Sonja Mckenzie (Parkrose); OSBA Legislative Policy Committee members Libra Forde (North Clackamas), Chrissy Reitz (Hood River County) and Courtney Snead (Jefferson County); and Mitzi Bauer (North Clackamas), George Beverly Jr. (McKenzie), Miriam Cummins (Linn Benton Lincoln ESD), Jesse Lippold (Salem-Keizer), Sahar Yarjani Muranovic (David Douglas) and Steven Schroedl (North Clackamas).