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MY VIEW • Measures aid schools, teachers

Oregon's vital services at a crossroads as groups try to influence vote on Measures 66 and 67
by: JAIME VALDEZ, Dan Bozich of Tigard asks motorists along Southwest Lower Boones Ferry Road to vote Yes on Measures 66 and 67. Two My View writers weigh in on the volatile tax issue. A Jan. 26 special election will decide the issue.

The time has come to move beyond the stale, tired arguments we've been having about public schools in this state, year after year.

Obviously, funding matters - if it didn't, the best private K-12 schools wouldn't cost $25,000 per year.

The key to significantly improving student outcomes in Oregon is to stabilize funding and foster more innovation so that teachers, principals and students can do their best work.

Teachers like Melanie Morris at West Sylvan Middle School, who gives feedback on students' papers years after she's had them in class. For her, educating students doesn't end when they walk out her door in June.

Or those at Lane Middle School in outer Southeast Portland, which has been recognized for more than five years for significantly improving student achievement among minority and low-income students. Teachers at Lane work as a team at each grade level, embracing innovative teaching styles and setting high standards for their students. Their success proves that every school can not only bring low-income students up to high standards, but can also help them excel.

Or consider math teacher Alison Strom at Roosevelt High School. She runs an 'Intro to Teaching Class,' where her high school students volunteer once a week in local elementary and middle schools, giving younger students positive role models and providing the high school students with valuable experience.

Melanie Morris, Alison Strom and the teachers at Lane are refusing to settle for the status quo. They're constantly seeking new and better ways to get better results with their students so they'll have opportunities to succeed - despite the obstacles they may face outside of school.

We need to make sure every student in Portland has an inspired, excellent teacher. This means providing new teachers with rigorous, in-class mentoring from master teachers, and making sure that schools are led by principals who have similar professional support. It means building strong, unified teaching teams by enabling teachers to pick where to work and schools to pick the teachers who are the best fit for their school.

These kinds of improvements don't have to cost a lot of money. But they can't happen in a financial environment where we constantly have to worry about cutting school days, music and PE, or teaching positions.

We need to rally together as a community and pass Measures 66 and 67. These modest tax increases raise the corporate minimum tax for the first time since 1931 and will only affect the top 2.5 percent of individual taxpayers.

If Measures 66 and 67 don't pass Jan. 26, Portland Public Schools faces $23 million in cuts, the equivalent of 267 teachers. Oregon schools are already operating with $550 million less than they had in the last budget cycle.

Measures 66 and 67 are a sensible way to maintain our schools, public safety and the other services we depend on as a community.

We have to preserve this basic foundation of support to create the conditions for continued improvement.

To have more success stories like Lane Middle School, our teachers and students need to know the community is behind them. Our job as a community is to make sure they have a full school year, support for excellent teaching and the opportunity to innovate.

Portland Public Schools has the strong foundation necessary to provide all students with an excellent education. Together, we can build on that strong foundation to make Portland Public Schools among the nation's best.

Michael Kelly is a parent of a Portland Public School student, a Stand for Children Team Coordinator and a Member of Stand for Children's Education Innovation Committee.