Today I walked my oldest child Charlie into his classroom for the very first day of preschool. Saying goodbye this first morning was bittersweet, but my leaving was made easier knowing that he is enrolled in an outstanding preschool where capable teachers provide art, music, science, and exposure to the outdoors. I feel better knowing Charlie will benefit from the chance to be around other children in this great environment.

If someone were to offer me the chance to pay 3 percent less tuition, but explain that by doing so I would force the school to eliminate art and music programs, I would direct them to Lakewood Bay and suggest they jump in.

The same type of question is being posed to voters in Lake Oswego school district with the Local Option Levy, Measure 3-305. Measure 3-305 would renew the Lake Oswego School District's 5-year local option levy, which now provides over 12 percent of the school district's operating budget. We currently pay $1.39 per $1,000 of assessed value for our home. Measure 3-305 would extend this levy another five years (for 2010 -2015) and maintain this support for our schools.

Parents with young children headed for Lake Oswego schools should vote yes on Measure 3-305 and encourage their neighbors to do so as well. We all care about our kids, and now is the time to invest in our children's future and renew this vital source of revenue for our neighborhood schools.

These funds now provide local children with lower class sizes, college prep classes, and fine arts, music, athletics, and after-school activities. It's crucial that the community support our school district so it can continue to provide such excellent programs. This renewal would also allow district leaders to consider expanding full-day kindergarten and offering foreign language immersion programs in the elementary schools.

All 13 LOSD schools were rated 'exceptional' on the last state report card, and this is noted by people in our surrounding community. Every week I meet young families who moved to this area because of Lake Oswego School District's great reputation. The district is a draw that attracts new homeowners which translates to higher property values for all of us. According to local Realtors, our school system's reputation for excellence affects home values more than any other variable. I suspect that's why 109 local Realtors endorse Measure 3-305.

Our ability to compete in a global economy requires that we maintain educational excellence here at home. Providing each child with a quality education is one of society's most important jobs. I suspect that's why both of Lake Oswego's mayoral candidates endorse Measure 3-305.

Lake Oswego schools need your help. Here are a few things you can do:

n Talk to your neighbors: It's worth noting that 68 percent of Lake Oswego households are adults without children, and five years ago this measure barely passed. The entire community needs to understand the value of supporting local schools. It's crucial that people vote yes. You can point out that the school district's reputation impacts home values - a direct return on our home investment.

n Join us for a neighborhood walk: On Saturday, Oct. 4th, volunteers will meet at 9 am at Waluga Junior High School, 4700 S.W. Jean Road to help get the word out about Measure 3-305.

n Most importantly, don't forget to vote! Ballots will be mailed to households on Oct. 16. Election Day is Nov. 4.

I now know what it's like to say goodbye to my child at a classroom door. Yet one does not have to be that invested to realize the value of our neighborhood schools. Let's support our school district so it can continue to do great work. A 'yes' on Measure 3-305 is a vote in support of quality education, our kids and the value of our community.

Sarah Howell is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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