You may have noticed that yard signs have started going up around town. It is time to “Renew Our School Levy.”Oelrich

Lake Oswego voters first approved our local option school levy in 2000 as a means to fill the budget gap created by inadequate state education funding. We have since renewed it twice. This November, Lake Oswego voters will be asked to renew the local option school levy for another five years at the same tax rate we have already been paying.

Prior to my recent term on the Lake Oswego School Board, I had the privilege of serving as the chair of the 2008 Local Option School Levy campaign. It was an inspiring experience because it confirmed everything I had believed about Lake Oswego to be true. Citizens of Lake Oswego value education and are willing to put action behind words in support of our schools. We also value the high quality of life we enjoy in Lake Oswego and we understand that our exceptional schools are truly the heart of our community. It was powerful to see people from all corners of the city work together to protect our schools. This same positive energy has returned as we again prepare to renew the school levy.

During my term on the Lake Oswego School Board, my colleagues and I were tasked with extraordinarily difficult decisions about how to reduce costs without compromising the integrity of our programs or the quality of instruction delivered in each classroom. The fact was then, and is now, that the state of Oregon does not provide adequate funding per student to deliver the caliber of education that Lake Oswego residents expect for their children. While we cannot control the level of funding we receive from the state of Oregon, we do have a few tools to supplement education funding locally.

Since 2000, the primary solution has been to fill the lion’s share of the budget gap with funding provided by the local option school levy. The levy represents about 10 percent of the district’s operating budget, or roughly $6 million per year. This funding allows us to attract and keep the most highly qualified teachers, to keep class sizes lower and to provide our students with the rich course offerings which will prepare them for success in college and in their future careers. The continuation of the levy funding is critical if we are to maintain our exceptional schools.

While I have passed the torch, both as chair of the Local Option School Levy campaign and as a school board member, I remain deeply committed to our schools and our community. I urge you to join with me in the effort renew our school levy. Talk with your friends and neighbors about the importance of this critical funding source for Lake Oswego schools. Share with them that this is not a new tax, it is just a continuation of the same rate we have been paying. Remind them about the impact our strong schools have on maintaining our vibrant community and preserving our high property values.

Most importantly, remember to vote yes on Nov. 5.

Teri Oelrich, Lake Oswego, is a former member of the Lake Oswego School Board and served as chairwoman of the 2008 Local Option School Levy campaign.

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