New Legislative Roadshow is hit with school board members
Friday, September 30, 2022
Gresham-Barlow School Board member Shawn Farrens (left) asks Interim Legislative Services Director Richard Donovan questions about legislation and policy before the Legislative Roadshow on Thursday at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
OSBA’s new Legislative Roadshow kicked off Thursday in Portland with a call for audience participation.
OSBA leaders annually travel the state to inform members about legislation and prepare them for the next year’s policy debates. The Legislative Roadshow, an update of the traditional Fall Regionals, incorporates more discussions with board members about what they are seeing in their districts and what they would like to see in the Legislature.
The new format also asks OSBA Legislative Policy Committee members to lead discussions. Thursday night’s tabletop discussions were animated and collaborative.
Multnomah Education Service District member Helen Ying said she liked that the evening was not a “sage on the stage,” but instead highlighted the assets OSBA has in knowledgeable, connected and experienced board members. Ying is secretary for the OSBA Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus.
Centennial School Board member David Linn said that if anything, he would have liked even more time for school board member interaction. Just from his table discussion he picked up some ideas from Parkrose board members on student representatives.
Lori Sattenspiel, OSBA interim deputy executive director, told the roughly two dozen school board members and superintendents present that OSBA would be relying more on school board members, especially committee members, to advocate for students.
The 2023 Legislature is expected to hold most of its meetings online, making it harder for lobbyists who rely on in-person chats but giving more participation opportunities for school board members from all over the state.
Richard Donovan, OSBA interim Legislative Services director, said community members can reach and influence their legislators in ways paid lobbyists can’t.
“Don’t underestimate the power of your voice,” Donovan told the audience.
Donovan and Sattenspiel walked the group through some of the expected policy issues in the upcoming legislative session, with financial challenges top of mind. After years of booming revenue, recent economic forecasts are predicting budget cuts are possible for 2023-25. OSBA is gearing up to try to keep school budgets whole.
“Funding is going to be our No. 1 priority,” Sattenspiel said.
Centennial Superintendent James Owens said the roadshow gave helpful insights into the budget forecast that he will take back to school board members to help inform their advocacy.
It wasn’t all talk about dollars and political fights, though. The roadshows are also a prime chance to network.
Shawn Farrens, who has been on the Gresham-Barlow School Board for less than a year, said he appreciated the small-group environment and the opportunity to get to know other school board members.
OSBA Executive Director Jim Green was also pleased with the in-person atmosphere.
“It’s good to get out and see our members,” he said. “It’s even better to hear what they have to say on the issues that affect our students.”