I benefited from public schools where experienced, well-educated teachers could educate kids in reasonably sized classes, in safe schools, with fair salaries, benefits, and pensions. In very different settings, I was offered opportunities to learn my way to a bright future. In rural Lane County, hippie kids and logger kids played together. Here, the kids of professors and students learned together, and after I moved to the big city, I went to a school where kids of every race were educated alongside each other.
Public schools are still places where our kids learn not just the Three Rs, but also how to function in a diverse society. I went to schools with a wide array of racial make-ups. The lessons I took from that experience is that we are the same beneath our skin and all are deserving of respect. I benefited from public schools from kindergarten to graduate school. When I graduated, I started repaying the debt I owed to society for providing me with so many opportunities by joining the military. I soon found that many of my friends also wanted to enter public service, but couldn’t do so because of their student loans.
Somewhere along the road, we lost our way. Retired State Representative Phil Barnhart tells a story of entering politics in the early 90’s when he found his son’s teacher crying in the hallway after she was laid off because of Measure 5 budget cuts. He’s fought for 17 years to reverse those cuts, but we still aren’t there. We have a constitutional right to adequate funding for education, but, year after year, conservative interests insist that we can’t afford adequately funding schools.
We see this every day in Eugene. In my own kids’ schools, I see class sizes so large that kids can’t possibly receive the attention they need, despite the incredible efforts of their dedicated teachers. I see parents who are upset that children with special needs are disrupting classrooms at Edison, but who are not working to see that all children get the resources they deserve. I see parents from Edison and Camas Ridge competing for needed repairs to their buildings in a school bond, when we should have a system that provides adequate funding for all school repairs. I see parents fighting to preserve STEM options for their kids, debating hotly whether fine arts education should be cut so schools can offer career and technical education, and in many other ways struggling to get necessary supports for their children to succeed in the public schools. And I continue to see college graduates unable to give back to their communities because of the crushing weight of student loan debts. This scarcity mindset turns us against each other, rather than toward each other to find better solutions.
We live in a society richer than any that preceded it. We believe that a great public education is every Oregon child’s right. In 2019, we made a great start by passing the Student Success Act, providing an additional $1 billion per year to pre-K to grade 12 public schools. Next, we'll take the affordability of higher education and career training by fully funding need-based financial aid.
We can do all of this together. My candidacy is fundamentally based in the belief that Oregonians care about each other and want to work together to provide educational opportunities for all children. Let’s move beyond the forces that try to profit from our divisions and work together to see a brighter future for Oregon’s schools.