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We know what it takes to 'move the needle' to support students and increase graduation rates

For the fifth time since 2000, Lake Oswego voters are being asked to approve what the Legislature calls "the local option levy." It's a local option because local education jurisdictions like Lake Oswego make the choice to tax themselves to help supplement education funding controlled by the Oregon legislature. The Oregon Legislature is mandated to fund education at the level of a "Quality Education Model" - or explain to voters why it is not funded. The Oregon legislature has never funded a "Quality Education Model" (QEM) and always responded that there was no funding.

28 years after Ballot Measure 5, our school district has no reason to believe that this year is any different for the Oregon Legislature. We are asking voters again to vote for a Learning levy that will provide additional education funding to Lake Oswego students to meet the high expectations of this community to serve all students.

Twelve percent of the Lake Oswego School District budget is raised from the local option levy. It has to be renewed every five years by voters. This year, the school board has chosen to ask for an increase to the levy to maintain positive momentum for students. Our district has a 93% graduation rate, up from 88% five years ago.

The school board has done its homework. We know what it takes to "move the needle" to support students and increase graduation rates, which is what we've done in the last five years. For example, we evaluate statistics at third grade to predict success nine years later for graduation. If a third grader needs help, it's in their graduation plan to make sure they get what they need to succeed.

In the past five years, we have helped high school students progress through RTI (response to instruction) supports for both high achieving students and those who needed help to insure graduation. We have high expectations for our students. We want high schoolers to experience an advanced placement or college level class before they graduate. To do that, we had to have supports to help students be successful.

These efforts were made possible by past levies supported by a community that understands that a selection of electives don't happen with current state funding. Today, we need to take a look at our elementary schools because STEM in high school isn't early enough to introduce science, technology, engineering and advanced math that will allow a student to take advantage of college offerings in high school. Our school district takes the long view. We know students will be here for 13 years. We need to be prepared at every step.

Last fall, the district audited special education programs. The results indicated more work needs to be done to meet the needs of this segment of students to help them graduate. This Learning Levy will help provide those supports and the efforts will be measured.

On May 21, we are asking the Lake Oswego community to maintain its very high expectations for the students of our school system. We are also asking for the community to help provide the resources commensurate with those expectations by passing the Learning Levy. The Board of Education and district administration will insure that those resources will produce graduation rates and student successes equivalent to our expectations.

Liz Hartman is a Lake Oswego School Board member


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