Senate endorses educational equity advisory committees for school districts
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
School districts would be required to set up educational equity advisory committees under a bill passed Wednesday by the Senate.
“This is about reaching out to communities and talking to parents about why you should be engaged in having a warm, supportive environment for every child in your school district,” said Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego.
Wagner is a former member of the Lake Oswego School Board. The school district established an equity advisory committee three years ago after hate incidents in its schools. Wagner said parents wanted a coordinated response from the district. He said 91 people volunteered for the first equity committee.
Senate Bill 732A passed 18-6 and now goes to the House. The bill says the committees would advise school boards and superintendents on how policy decisions affect student equity. The committees would also work with leaders when events might negatively impact historically underrepresented students.
The superintendent would select the committee members, and it must be made up of parents, district staff, students and community members. School districts with more than 10,000 students would have to establish a committee by Sept. 15, 2022, and smaller districts would have until Sept. 15, 2025.
Educational stakeholders, including OSBA, had some initial concerns about mandates in the bill but offered support after amendments removed public meeting and reporting requirements.
“OSBA strongly supports equity efforts in schools, particularly when they allow local leaders to make the best decisions for their students and communities,” said Richard Donovan, OSBA Legislative Services specialist. “It’s always exciting when something successful at the local level is elevated by the Legislature.”
Lake Oswego’s equity committee has focused on issues including district policies, curriculum and workforce diversity.
Lake Oswego School Board member Neelam Gupta was among those offering supportive testimony during hearings. Gupta was co-chair of the district’s equity committee before being appointed to the school board and is the school board’s liaison to the committee.
“Our superintendent has stated that work of inclusivity, equity, diversity, access and belonging is the most important work we are doing in LOSD, especially during this time of heightened awareness of the impacts of systemic racism, and the equity committee has been a critical advisory body to the school board in that work,” she wrote.