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OSBA Annual Convention highlights need for revenue reform

School board members around the state learned about an array of important issues facing schools at OSBA’s 70th Annual Convention, which ended Nov. 13. But it was revenue reform that took center stage.

K-12 education faces a roughly $2 billion funding gap in the upcoming biennium, and it will be OSBA’s top priority to champion a revenue reform package in the 2017 Legislature that changes the way education is funded in Oregon.

“We want to write a new future for Oregon and for our students,” said OSBA President Dr. Doug Nelson.

In January, OSBA will work with state-level partners to poll Oregonians to assess voter support for different revenue reform measures. The feedback will be used to craft a legislative package that OSBA will present to legislators in 2017.

Key elements of the package will be:

  • It will amend Oregon’s Constitution to require the Legislature to provide adequate funding to meet Quality Education Model goals
  • It will address cost drivers such as PERS and health care and eliminate unfunded mandates
  • It will provide accountability to taxpayers and policymakers through transparent planning and communications of how any new revenues would be spent to impact student achievement

For too long, Oregonians have been waiting “until next year” to find a way to provide adequate, stable school funding, said Jim Green, who will succeed Betsy Miller-Jones in January as OSBA’s executive director. Green is currently OSBA’s deputy executive director.

“I need you to stand up with us this year as we take our plan forward to change the way we fund education in this state,” Green said. “If the Cubs can win a World Series, we can do this. I am absolutely convinced.”

Keynote speakers each day inspired convention attendees. Chad Hymas, whose neck was shattered in 2001 by a 2,000-pound bale of hay, talked about turning obstacles into opportunities.

“The two most important days in your life,” he said, “are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

He gave personal examples of how people can use the circumstances in their lives to make a difference, and urged board members to “do whatever you can do in your circle to have purpose.”

“If you want to be a person of influence, be visibly felt,” Hymas said.

Pedro Noguera, a distinguished professor of education at UCLA and former school board member, said in a keynote address that schools need to focus less on test scores and more on cultivating talent in children.

Heidi Sipe, superintendent of the Umatilla School District, said in a Sunday keynote address that with school board support districts can cut through red tape, avoid making excuses or being bound by perceived limitations, and instead focus on positives to maximize student achievement.