Three years ago, the campaign to bring a major league baseball team to Portland brought a group of parents together around another cause dear to them: our children's schools.

As Portlanders debated the merits of big league baseball, Karl Mundorff, a parent whose children attend Glencoe Elementary, commented, 'We really need to bring major league education to Portland.' The idea struck a chord. We designed and printed 1,000 bumper stickers for a drive to 'Bring Major League Education to Oregon.' Our goal was to put school funding on the same playing field as Major League Baseball.

Today, our schools are mired in a funding crisis that seems to have no end in sight. Through the 1990s, according to the Chalkboard Project, Oregon dropped from 15th to 30th in the nation in per-pupil spending. Are we intent on increasing class sizes; cutting music, physical education and arts classes; and reducing the school year? This doesn't seem like a winning formula.

Consider this: When my daughter started first grade last fall, there were 31 children in her class, enough kids to field three baseball teams, including extra outfielders. Even with the best of teachers, large class sizes do not foster a good environment for learning.

Like it or not, we're competing in a global economy, and knowledge is the key to our future. If companies cannot find qualified engineers, designers, writers, doctors, lawyers and programmers in Oregon, they will recruit talent from other states or countries.

When we think of baseball, we think of dedication, spirit and courage. Baseball embodies our aspirations to do our best, honor sportsmanship and play as a team. As baseball fans, we must work together to demand stable funding for our schools. If we drop the ball, our kids, communities and future will surely be sacrificed.

Brad M. Smith of Southeast Portland has two children who attend Buckman Elementary School, where he and his wife are active. He's the president of Hot Pepper Studios.

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