The 81st Legislative Assembly got off to a troubling start. The Legislature convened, but the Capitol building is closed, first-floor windows are boarded up, and a fence and barriers are in place to keep protesters from damaging the building.
Seeing the Capitol under siege cuts deep. I’ve been working in this building for longer than I care to remember, and I never dreamed I would see this sort of thing in Salem, Oregon.
The 2019 Legislature, the last regular session, did such important work when it passed the Student Success Act. It created momentum — and funding — to make more things happen for our traditionally underserved students.
This year, the session feels so much different. Like our students, teachers and administrators, I am feeling disconnected and alienated in the virtual world. It makes advocating for education a lot harder, taking away the face-to-face time we rely on to engage lawmakers.
This session, more than ever, will require all of us working together to accomplish our two biggest priorities for this year: an adequate State School Fund and keeping the Student Success Act whole.
We have students with varying needs for academic and developmental support counting on us to provide the resources and a system that allows them to excel.
OSBA’s Legislative Services team has started using new tools to advocate for our schools, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, digital messaging and text messaging, as well as the usual phone calls and emails.
Zoom allows the new legislators to see our faces, and without having to walk the Capitol hallways to sit in waiting areas, we can have more meetings. We have held two educational townhalls with new legislators introducing them to us and giving them a high-level look at education funding. This allowed for interaction and feedback all in one meeting, far more productive than a series of 15-minute meetings in the old style.
School board members can help, and we need your voices now more than ever to help cut through the constant noise legislators face.
Please sign up and attend your local legislator’s town halls. Get informed and take your local education perspective to these meetings, and speak about the needs of your students. Our legislative team is here to help and available as needed.
We will be setting up a professional development opportunity that will help you lobby in this virtual world. Stay tuned.
Thanks for all you do for the students in your district.