School School districts, not the state, know what’s best for students
by Liz Hartman
Serving students is job one for a public school district. I believe in public education. I believe in local control of our school districts.
For more than 30 years, the Oregon Legislature has not been able to fund schools at the level that puts students first. There are 197 school districts in Oregon with school boards of five to seven elected members each. That’s more than 1,000 elected officials watching over what is right for their community.
The Legislature allocates funding in Oregon. School Boards hire and oversee Superintendents to ensure that their students get a quality education. That is local control. Every year the Oregon Legislature looks for ways to insert themselves into local control. This year is no different.
In this pandemic year when students have given so much of their education that many will need more than a year or two to recover, the proposed state education budget is $9.1 billion — which will cause cuts of teachers and/or school days in nearly every district in the State. Legislators “might” find a few million more to allocate. The School Districts have planned and calculated that a $9.6 billion budget is what is necessary this year for our students. School districts know what students need. It doesn’t matter where you live in this state, every legislator needs to hear that citizens want schools funded to meet the gaps students have experienced because of the pandemic.
For five consecutive times, our legislators have introduced legislation for mandatory bargaining for teacher contracts that address class size. In Lake Oswego, and pretty much in all school districts, science and analysis goes into determining what makes a difference in a student’s education. Class size falls to the bottom of the list of factors. What’s at the top of the list? Collective teacher efficacy (well trained teachers). Is the Legislature trying to get Oregon a well-trained teacher pool? No. Lake Oswego School District does. For the past few years, professional development has been at the top of the District list to help teachers serve our students. LOSD has great teachers. They deserve resources to keep them current. That’s true in highly ranked school districts in Oregon.
Why would the Legislature send a bill for the fifth time to make class size a mandatory point of bargaining? The bigger question is why would the Legislature make class size an issue that teachers can strike on and why would the Legislature include something that financially impacts a district when they have not fully funded education in more than 30 years?
Class size legislation affects students throughout the entire state of Oregon and impacts our (for now) locally controlled school districts. It causes funding problems. It ties the hands of administrators to deal with the needs of individual students. The “science” doesn’t hold up for this bill. LOSD has worked preparing students for the world they will live in. Let’s use the educational science to develop a better education plan and let local school districts that know what their students need use their resources to address student needs equitably. Local school districts do not need this statewide legislation with no funding attached.
It’s important to vote in the May 18 LO School Board election.
Liz Hartman is a candidate for Position 4 of the LOSD Board of Education
The upcoming school board election is important for our District because the three people elected will follow through on the next phase of bond funding which could see the replacement of the aging Lake Oswego Junior High and River Grove Elementary Schools. These are important decisions and commitments for our community and the future of our students.
In 2017, the LOSD presented a bond that has now produced a renovated Oak Creek Elementary, updated safety features in nearly all the schools, an agreement to partner with the City for a replacement pool and building updates at nearly every school. Last month, middle school students entered Lakeridge Middle School, a replacement for a crumbling building. It is now time to work on Phase 2.
One of the lessons of the pandemic is that students need to be in schools – and schools need to be built healthy, safe and sustainable. The district heard questions about whether the future of education was online schooling. We can answer that question honestly and emphatically after more than a year of distance learning: yes, students need to be in a school building.
While there are students who prefer remote learning, more than a majority of our students work best in person. It’s healthier for our students. We can provide more resources and educational experiences for them in person. And we establish a greater sense of community when students have the opportunity to learn and work together.
I am not raising funds for my school board campaign. I will be reaching out to the community when Phase 2 of the bond is presented because I am committed to replacing these two schools at the earliest possible time. With an eye and commitment to sustainability, the schools will be built with the commitment to keep them maintained.
The District is looking forward to bringing students back full time this fall. Maintenance teams, nurses, teachers and staff have worked hard to develop, implement, follow and follow up with health safety protocols to protect staff and students.
Lake Oswego School District has one of the most solid administration teams of any throughout the state. They are well backgrounded in best practices locally while considering and incorporating best practices from other parts of the U.S. and internationally. The dedication to deliver an excellent education is the foundation of the district. The strategic plan is the vehicle to deliver an excellent education to all students. In a year of change, many of the changes already are working on the mental health of students. Pandemics are not the only times students need help. The strategic plan adds a lens to the excellence goal of looking at other strategies to help students.
I ask you to cast your School Board vote because your Board needs to know that there are people in our community who care about our schools and who are watching, learning, unlearning, re-learning and supporting our District to achieve the goal of reaching every student. Lake Oswego School District is the epitome of how a public school system can reach every student when they work together and intentionally to address challenges.