Legislative education committee takes issues on tour

Students read in a classroom at Rocky Heights Elementary School in Hermiston in this file photo. The Joint Committee on Student Success visits Eastern Oregon next on its statewide search for best education practices.

A legislative committee tasked with improving the state’s public education system will visit Eastern Oregon April 24 and 25 as part of its statewide tour.

Baker City and Hermiston are the second and third stops of the Joint Committee on Student Success. The first stop was March 22 at Sheldon High School in Eugene.

Public hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at Baker High School and 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at Hermiston High School.

Lawmakers said they want to hear from students, parents, teachers, administrators and other community members about what is and isn’t working in their schools and in the broader public education system.

“We want to hear from Oregonians about what they want in their K-12 schools. We want to know where we’re succeeding, where we are falling short and how we can bridge the gap,” said committee Co-Vice Chairman Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend. “With that vision, the Legislature can work in partnership with our school districts to create an efficient education system that best serves our students.”

The 14-member bipartisan committee is charged with learning about successful educational practices around the state and coming up with legislative strategies to address the state’s chronically low four-year high school graduation rate. The state’s on-time graduation rate is 74.8 percent, the third worst in the nation.

That could include legislation to reform educational funding or accountability measures that tie educational funding with certain measures of performance, said Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, a Portland Democrat.

“We are not here to reform education because education already suffers from a lot of flavor of the month,” said Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, a Portland Democrat who is co-chairwoman of the committee. “Everybody has their next great idea about how to reform education.

“Our goal is not to come in and say, this is what you should do districts. It is to say, how do we set up funding structures and accountability structures for every district to make the system work for them?”

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, modeled the committee after a bipartisan effort lawmakers used to develop a $5.3 billion transportation funding plan they passed last year.

The committee kicks off activities Tuesday, April 24, with a round-table discussion with Baker City area business leaders, followed by a listening session with students from local schools. Lawmaker have lunch reservations at the Baker Technical Institute’s culinary program and later that day plan a tour of the culinary school and Baker Web Academy. A roundtable discussion with area education leaders precedes the 7 p.m. public hearing at Baker High School.

The schedule Wednesday, April 25, starts with a morning listening session with area students. After lunch, committee members will tour Umatilla Head Start, meet with the Hermiston Kiwanis Club, visit Morrow School District for a discussion about wraparound services and tour the Pendleton Tribal Attendance Pilot Program. Lawmakers will hold a roundtable discussion with area educators and a dinner meeting with local business leaders before the 7 p.m. public hearing at Hermiston High School.

The next morning, Thursday, April 26, the committee will tour the Columbia Basin Student Homebuilders Program in Hermiston before traveling to Arlington for a listening session with students and a tour of Arlington High School.

During their first stop in Eugene on the statewide tour, lawmakers said they found roundtable discussions with middle- and high school students particularly enlightening. They have increased the amount of time they’ll spend with students at upcoming stops to 90 minutes. Lawmakers said they have asked schools to provide a cross section of students from different backgrounds, performance levels, charter schools and more traditional school models.

“They helped to make it very clear there is no one thing that fits all kids but that they come with all sorts of skills, goals, expectations and motivations and having everything from sports to drama and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), all of those are really important,” said Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay. “Some people think we’re going out to find the answer to Oregon education system, but there are lots of answers. How do we make sure there are opportunities in each and every one of the schools?”

Joint Committee on Student Success meetings

April 24, 7 p.m.


Baker High School

2500 E St., Baker City

April 25, 7 p.m.


Hermiston High School

600 South First Street, Hermiston

May 9, 7 p.m.


Clackamas High School

14486 S.E. 122nd Ave., Clackamas

May 24, 7 p.m.


Woodburn High School

1785 N. Front St., Woodburn

June 5, 7 p.m.

Pawlowski Athletic Center

Central High School

815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford

July 11, 7 p.m.


Arts & Communication Magnet Academy

11375 S.W. Center St., Beaverton

Sept. 13, 7 p.m.


Ridgeview High School

4555 S. Elkhorn Ave., Redmond

Sept. 27, 7 p.m.


President James Madison High School

2735 N.E. 82nd Ave., Portland

Oct. 10, 7 p.m.


Marshfield High School

972 Ingersoll Ave., Coos Bay


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