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School board members talk funding with Oregon's Congressional delegation in D.C.

School board members from six Oregon school districts pressed their case with the state’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 8.

The board members played host to a breakfast with Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden at the Capitol Visitors Center. In the afternoon, they met individually with the state’s five House members and their staffs.

Board members focused their comments on funding and the upcoming reauthorization of the main federal education law.

The board members’ Congressional meetings were organized by the Oregon School Boards Association. The meetings were held in conjunction with the National School Boards Association’s 38th annual Federal Relations Network Conference. The conference began Sunday and concludes today.

The Oregon school board members who conducted today’s meetings are:

  • Laurie Adams, Springfield School District
  • David Beeson, Silver Falls School District in Silverton
  • Beth Gerot, Eugene School District
  • Kris Howatt, Gresham-Barlow School District 
  • Dave Krumbein, Pendleton School District
  • Patti McLeod, Hillsboro School District

During their meetings, the board members shared information about the stabilizing impact of federal stimulus funds on Oregon’s schools this year. The $300 million provided by Congress helped preserve educational services, class sizes and school days across the state. With no additional federal funding promised and state tax collections flat, the state faces a shortfall of $1 billion in school funding for the coming two years.

The board members also encouraged an extension of federal timber payments to rural counties. Currently, 33 Oregon counties receive about $200 million a year to offset the loss of revenue from declining timber harvests on federal lands. The money supports roads and rural schools. However, the payments are declining and are scheduled to expire after the 2011 fiscal year.

Another priority topic for the board members was the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Educators want Congress to reduce bureaucratic rules and scale back numerous penalties for schools that don’t meet federal targets. Instead, the board members would like to see a system that rewards schools for strong performance.