School equity committee proposal seems positive, but details are key
Monday, March 22, 2021
A bill to address equity issues at the school board level has good intentions, but OSBA is concerned about the implementation.
Senate Bill 732 would add an educational advisory committee to every district. The bill grew from one school district’s positive experience during the Student Success Act community outreach process.
Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, is the bill’s chief sponsor. Before he was Senate Democratic leader, Wagner was a Lake Oswego School Board member. As part of the reckoning with some hate incidents in the district, the board established a community committee to combat racism and help the victims of harassment and bullying heal.
“We felt like we needed to be intentionally engaging the community,” Wagner told the Senate Education Committee in a March 18 hearing.
The board established an educational equity advisory committee, and the response was overwhelming. More than a hundred people applied for a volunteer committee of 20. The diverse membership of the committee, Wagner said, fostered incredible dialogue and public response.
The committee has become a permanent fixture. The value was in the connection to the community, Wagner said. Parents and community members know they can come to the board and somebody is going to hear them, he told the committee.
Wagner’s comments were echoed by Lake Oswego School Board member Neelam Gupta. As the district pushes to combat systemic racism and support diverse teacher hiring practices, she told legislators, “the equity committee has been a critical body in advising the school board.”
Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, responded positively to working with stakeholders to address these concerns, signaling he was “open to conversations about the details” of the bill.
OSBA expects to work with committee members and other stakeholder groups to pursue technical amendments.