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Critics decry school board's minimum wage stance

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Members of 15 Now Oregon attended the Tuesday Hillsboro School Board meeting to ask board members to reconsider their decision to not support legislation that would raise the states minimum wage.About 20 members of 15 Now Oregon, an advocacy group promoting a $15 minimum wage in Oregon, turned out at Tuesday night’s Hillsboro School Board meeting to take the panel to task on its recent vote to not support legislation that would increase the minimum wage.

Seven citizens spoke to the board to ask members to reconsider their Jan. 12 vote. The board voted 4-to-3 during a work session about legislative priorities to not support an increase in the minimum wage to either $13.50 or $15 per hour. During that discussion, District Superintendent Mike Scott advised board members that, “There’s a certain amount of politics around this. I don’t know if that’s a position a school board should be taking. There’s a sensitivity around it.”

Several speakers condemned the board action, indicating taking a stand on minimum-wage legislation is not the job of a school board.

“You all should be ashamed of yourselves for taking that position. Hillsboro needs a raise,” said Jamie Partridge, chief petitioner for a ballot measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

“This school district has a big problem with poverty. Fifty percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced lunches,” Partridge said, adding that many of the district’s employees — including bus drivers, food service workers and classroom assistants — earn less than $15 an hour.

“When these workers don’t have to rely on safety net programs, taxpayers in Oregon will save $1.7 billion,” he said, quoting data from the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

“You’ve driven a deeper wedge between those who have and those who have not here in Hillsboro,” said Hillsboro resident and former school board candidate Jaime Rodriguez. “I think we’re better than that.”

Board members appeared to listen carefully to what the citizens had to say, but did not respond to any of the speakers. Several members of the audience held signs stating, “Poverty hurts kids,” and “Family stability = Education success.”

“We elect school boards to set educational policy for schools. To weigh in to a social policy like the minimum wage is very, very tangential to that function,” said Michael Dale of Cornelius. “Not your job, not your business.

“You shouldn’t weigh in.”

Dale, a lawyer who represents low-income clients, said poverty breeds educational failure.

Students whose families who don’t have housing and food stability cannot succeed in school, he added.

“If you’re going to come out for or against something, you should be supporting a living wage of $15 an hour,” said David Carlson of Beaverton.

“Your students and their parents deserve to live in dignity.”

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