SALEM — I started teaching in Creswell in 1989. In my 30 years in Oregon as a teacher, principal, district administrator and superintendent, I have been part of a system that, with few exceptions, has been asked to do more for its deserving students with fewer resources each year.
Now, after three decades of underinvestment in our schools, Oregon’s leaders made a real commitment to our children, our educators, our schools and our state with the passage of the Student Success Act. When fully implemented, it will mean an additional $1 billion investment in early learning and K-12 education each year and a commitment to improving student outcomes. This will bring Oregon closer than ever to meeting the funding goals of the Quality Education Model.
As Governor Kate Brown has said, the Student Success Act marks a turning point for education in Oregon. With its focus on equity, the Student Success Act recognizes that Oregon’s schools work for many but are not meeting the needs of all students. But with increased and targeted investments, we can finally build an education system that will ensure every single student in our state is on a path to realizing their dreams for the future. The Student Success Act will transform opportunities for every student in our state, particularly our rural students and students in communities of color.
While the Legislature delivered on providing the resources, it’s up to local school districts and communities to propose a plan for how best to spend those dollars for students’ benefit. The process has transitioned from statewide priorities to meeting local needs. It was clear during the statewide tour by legislators serving on the Joint Committee on Student Success that there were both common and unique needs in each community.
The Student Success Act calls on school districts to engage their communities in developing that plan, particularly families and students of color; students with disabilities; students learning English as a second language; and students navigating poverty, homelessness, and foster care.
Last month, the Oregon Department of Education distributed to school districts the Student Investment Account Engagement Toolkit which helps school districts meet the engagement requirements laid out by the Student Success Act. The toolkit includes a planning guide, engagement strategies, feedback form and other documents that enable school districts to fully co-create and partner with their communities as they assess local goals and needs.
Our communities must be inclusive and welcoming for all our students. Parents and families must be empowered to understand how they can advise their schools on how to best address their children’s needs.
Across the state, from Astoria to Ontario, school districts are welcoming students back to campus and community members back into the education conversation. These are your schools. I’m honored to partner with you on this historic opportunity to foster equity and excellence for every learner in Oregon.
This opinion piece originally appeared in The Oregonian.