Long-serving education advocates marvel at magnitude of Student Success Act
Monday, May 20, 2019
Normally, we try to be prospective in Legislative Highlights, giving you a heads up of what we expect to happen in the upcoming week. But this edition I think it’s important to look back at the historic passage of the Student Success Act.
Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law last week, and Monday, May 20, there will be a ceremonial signing in Salem. By any calculation, the Student Success Act is a monumental achievement.
First and foremost, please take a moment to celebrate the act's passage. It represents the first concrete step toward a major re-investment in our schools in almost 30 years. It could not have happened without school board members’ strong advocacy.
Your leadership on school funding issues has been crucial. This act can fundamentally change the schools conversation from one about cuts and disinvestment to one about investments in staff, programs and tools needed to transform the lives of our K-12 students. Thank you!
The historical context only makes the bill’s passage seem more amazing. OSBA Executive Director Jim Green’s message earlier this week sums up the elation over the passage of House Bill 3427.
“If you live in Oregon and you care about kids,” Green said, “you are standing on your desk, clapping your hands and screaming ‘Yes!’ at the top of your lungs today.”
This victory was a long time in coming.
“Many of us in Oregon have spent our entire adult lives waiting for the day we would fix our broken school funding model,” Green said. “That day is now on the horizon.”
Green’s message about the time and the effort that went into addressing our broken school funding model resonated with me, so I reached out to other education advocates for their thoughts.
These are the people who, like me, usually don’t want to be in the news. They’re lobbyists and government relations professionals who have dedicated their careers to helping students. School funding has been a signature issue for them.
I asked them what the Student Success Act meant.
“Year after year, in my 23 years with OEA, we have worked to improve school funding in every way we could: at the ballot, in revenue policy and in efforts to protect and enhance the State School Fund and other funding sources,” said Laurie Wimmer, of the Oregon Education Association. “Never before have we succeeded in dramatically moving the dial for our students in the way we were able to do this session. It has been an honor to be part of that success, and it is the highlight of my long career in Oregon politics.”
“This is a once-in-a-generation investment in our students that will meaningfully impact every child in Oregon,” said Morgan Allen, of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. “It is a highlight of my more than a decade in education advocacy.”
“It is not cliché to say that I never thought I would see this in my career,” said David Williams, of the Beaverton School District. “The Student Success Act is truly the fruit of 20 years of concerted advocacy for schools, as Sen. (Mark) Hass said in his closing remarks, ‘This is our time.’”
Finally, I spoke to Ozzie Rose, the dean of Oregon's education lobby. More than 40 years ago he founded COSA, and he currently works for education service districts and the Oregon School Activities Association. I suspect he has forgotten more about education than I will ever know.
“Finally, a significant response to the impact of Ballot Measure 5 on our schools,” Rose said, referring to the measure that limited property taxes and shifted the burden of school funding to the state. “After 29 years I was beginning to believe it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime.”
There are many other stakeholder representatives I did not get a chance to contact, and they all deserve credit, including other school district advocates, school board members, the Oregon School Employees Association, Stand for Children, Oregon PTA, Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, OregonASK, Coalition for the Common Good and many others.
This was a team effort, from all of us and all of you. Please take a moment to savor the promise of a brighter future for Oregon’s children.