Creswell, Education

Part Five – Lobbying for learning

Four months after Board Director Lacey Risdal first appealed to the school board about Creswell becoming more involved at the state level, she was able to do her part, with the help of Board Director Natalie Smathers, during Oregon School Boards Association’s Lobby Day organized March 5 at the Capitol.
”It was absolutely worth our time,” Risdal said. ”I want to go back every year that we need to go back and make sure Creswell is represented in that room.”
Smathers added that lobbying for Oregon kids was a ”great experience” and she encouraged everyone to get involved – especially parents.
”Make your voices heard,” she said. ”What you have to say is important and your legislatures want to hear from you.”
OSBA organized the event as way to connect school board members, parents and educators from each district in Oregon to their respective legislators to ”advocate for sufficient, stable funding for Oregon education,” according to its website.
District members are then split into groups and have 15-minute conversations with legislators to ”make their case for why students need revenue reform and cost containment.” The day starts with lobbying training and the afternoon puts the lobbyists to the test.
”These lobby days have shown legislators education advocates’ local-level accounts of schools’ issues,” said Lori Sattenspiel, legislative services director of OSBA. ”Telling these local stories of how state budgets impact our young people is so important as we keep moving closer to making the investments our kids deserve.”
Lobbying days started on Feb. 12 with Multnomah and Clackamas counties and finished on March 19 with Southern Oregon.
For the training, OSBA brought in lobbyist firm consultants from Hilltop Public Solutions. Risdal said the consultants did a run through of what a lobbying speech sounds like, to give the groups an idea of how to tell their stories.
”It was helpful because they helped model the speech and we got to turn it into our own words,” she said. ”I (wasn’t) as aggressive as he was; he’s a professional lobbyist and I wanted it to be authentically me. It was comforting to know it wasn’t a canned speech.”
Risdal said that they were lucky to have OSBA arrange everything because they could see more legislators than they would have if they had called each legislator personally to schedule a time. The two were in a group with a superintendent from Siuslaw, as well as with a retired school board committee member and city councilor from Florence.
She said that because each group only had 15 minutes to make their case, she found herself actively listening to keep from repeating a point. She said that Smathers and her took the lead during a couple of conversations, because it was ”comfortable for us to speak first and be more outspoken.”
”If you’re in the room you wanted to speak something,” she said. ”No one was overly ambitious and spoke the whole time; we wanted every school district to be represented.”
The day was shadowed, however, by a rumor that the Chair’s budget was going to be $8.77 billion, which would be under the current level of service needed to maintain funding – $8.97 billion. On March 7, however, a draft copy of the chair’s budget was released at $8.87 billion. At the time, Risdal said that the groups took that opportunity to focus on the message: Oregon can’t go back.
”On a year we were focusing on moving forward; we can’t go back,” she said. ”That would be a $200,000 cut for Creswell: that means a week of school.”
She said it was important for her to highlight that losing a week of school not only hurts the student’s learning, but it affects the student’s ability to get wrap around services, such as counseling, the clothes closet and Food 4 Kids.
”My personal story was seeing those wrap around services I get to be apart of, like the backpack program,” Risdal added. ”When someones says ‘you’re just going to pay the teachers more or it’s just for retirement,’ it’s that but it’s not just that; it’s everything else.”
Once they touched on why the school system can’t go back, Risdal said the groups focused on what they could do if the schools did have more funding, and what would be possible in the future.
”That’s the fun part,” she said. ”That’s the visioning of what we get to do, and we haven’t been there for three decades. It’s been three decades since we really invested in the school district; every year has been the same level or we’ve made cuts.”
Although the legislators couldn’t promise anything, Risdal said that it was positive and she ”didn’t get a negative response from anyone we talked to.” She added that she kept hearing the message of, ”I want to invest in education; I will do my best.”
Risdal and Smathers spoke to Representatives Marty Wilde, Paul Holvey, John Lively, Julie Fahey, Lee Beyer and Floyd Prozanski.
”Knowing that we got the rural districts viewpoint into the room; it felt really good,” Risdal said. ”There’s power in numbers. I’m glad Natalie and I went up together and Creswell was represented with two different voices.”
Smathers added that lobbying was important because it was time for the legislators to make education a top priority and appropriately fund schools.
”I’m very passionate about the education we provide to our youth in our community as well as state wide,” she said. ”Every child deserves to learn in an environment where they feel emotionally safe to ask questions throughout the learning process. With the norm of one teacher per 30+ students in Oregon’s classrooms, many kids are left to struggle.”
Although Smathers and Risdal brought Creswell to the forefront during Lobby Day, they both said that there is more that the Creswell community can do. At, community members can sign up to help support OSBA advocates and send a pre-written message to Oregon legislators to show their support in funding education.



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