Reps. Tina Kotek and Paul Holvey were re-elected to their positions as speaker of the House and speaker pro tempore, respectively, but two new leaders have strong education ties.
Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, previously the caucus whip, moved into the majority leader role. She replaced Rep. Jennifer Williamson, who held the position for four years. Williamson’s announcement that she would not seek re-election surprised many Capitol watchers.
Smith Warner has been a tenacious advocate for public education, working in support of increased school funding, Public Employees Retirement System reform, and other policies to help public schools, notably endorsing expanded learning time and summer learning programs. Along with Sen. Arnie Roblan, she was responsible for co-chairing the Joint Committee on Student Success through a 16-month process, including a statewide tour, that resulted in the biggest education funding bill Oregon has seen in a generation, the Student Success Act.
Rep. Janeen Sollman's election as assistant House majority leader is also good for schools. Sollman served on the Hillsboro School Board for eight years, and she has been a tireless advocate for schools and school boards, serving on the House Education Committee since taking office in 2017. Like Smith Warner, she has championed increased education funding and cost containment for school districts and been a considered voice on labor relations and bargaining.
More prominent leadership positions for Smith Warner and Sollman should mean good things for schools and students. Both legislators have made education a main area of policy concern throughout their legislative careers, and their increased power means that the things they want to do will have greater prominence.