Most of the conversations in Salem about how to fund public education start with how much is available and how thinly it can be spread.
Representatives of a new public outreach effort want Oregonians to move those talks to a new starting point: what people value in education and what they want schools to offer.
Albany residents are invited to be a part of the effort through any of four public meetings this spring, sharing their thoughts on education in general and on Greater Albany Public Schools specifically.
The meetings will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 20 at West Albany High School, May 10 at North Albany Middle School, May 17 at Clover Ridge Elementary School and May 25 at South Albany High School.
The forums are a part of a statewide initiative, Oregon Rising, organized by the Oregon School Boards Association, the Oregon Education Association and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.
The survey to be offered at each forum is open to the public online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/oregonrising1. A Spanish version will be available when the Oregon Rising initiative goes fully live, on Tuesday.
Oregon Rising representatives Craig Hawkins, executive director of COSA; Chuck Bennett, COSA director of government relations; and Tricia Yates, director of communications from the Oregon School Boards Association kicked off the discussion Wednesday with Albany principals and district office representatives.
Eventually, Hawkins said, the information gained from the meetings will be used to drive funding conversations with state lawmakers. But for now, he said, he just wants people to dream out loud.
“It really starts from a different frame from what we’ve been talking about,” he said.
Lawmakers want good education programs, Yates added. “This is the best way they can hear from their constituents about what that means and how to achieve it,” she said.
The Oregon Rising survey asks respondents to weigh in on issues such as the number of electives offered, emphasis on career-technical education, student access to health care, classroom population sizes, the length of the school day, access to technology and opportunities to study foreign languages, among others.
Locally, Greater Albany plans to use the comments to help set educational goals and make better connections with parents and the community, said Marcia Latta, the school district’s communications specialist.
“GAPS has been reviewing district operations and seeking community input over the last year through the efficiency study, the facilities advisory process and the community survey about a potential bond measure,” she told the Democrat-Herald. “This is one more way for GAPS to learn about what the community thinks and wants for GAPS.”
The district is also crafting a construction and renovation bond request for voters to consider in May 2017. Community forum discussions will help those along because they will shed light on educational priorities in the district, Latta said.
If, for example, patrons really want more vocational classes or more science, technology and math, she said, “That would provide useful insight in developing the final bond proposal.
“Of course, it is only one of the ways we will be seeking input about the bond, including an additional survey in the fall and other opportunities for community input before a proposal is finalized,” Latta said.