As I mentioned in my last article, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow an incredible amount by playing a number of different roles for our campaign team. Our team has tons of experience and knowledge and they have been great teachers for me along the way. I’ve also been very lucky to be able to attend various educational forums about topics from education to forestry on behalf of our campaign. These forums have been put on by a number of different entities, and I’ve walked away from each of them with a much better understanding of the topics themselves, current issues, and what kind of policy changes could help them.
The first one of these forums I attended was the “Reimagine Education in Oregon” which was put on by Salem-Keizer School district. The goal of this forum was to educate the audience on the purpose of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and to hear feedback from the audience about issues within our current education system and how they could be addressed. Many teachers, administrators, counselors, students, and parents were in attendance and all got to have their voices heard. The first half of the forum was a presentation on what the ESSA was and how it could help Oregon’s struggling education system. We learned that the ESSA was the replacement of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, and that it was a “Gentle hand back of control to the states.” The ESSA’s main goal is to advance education equity by allowing the states to adjust their education systems to fit their own needs and to address their own problems. After everyone had been introduced to the ESSA, we broke up into small groups of about ten, and discussed issues and solutions to that could help Oregon’s new education plan. Each table then got to present the issue that they thought was most pressing, and how they thought we should address it. This forum was a great opportunity to hear from the people who work in our education system discuss what type of policies are currently hindering our education system, and what type could help turn it around.
Another great opportunity to learn from experts that I’ve had was when I attended a presentation from Jon Chandler, the CEO of the Oregon Home Builders Association, and Nick Smith, the Executive Director of the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities non-profit organization. The objective of this presentation was to discuss issues involving affordable housing, land use, active forest management, the timber industry, and how they’re all tied together. It’s safe to say that there was a lot to be learned, but both Mr. Smith and Mr. Chandler did a great job of outlining the topics, and getting into specifics when it comes to the successes and failures of our state to create policy to address these issues. We learned that the issues of farm and forest preservation, affordable housing, and active forest management of all of our forests need to be prioritized equally if we are going to effectively deal with these complex and interdependent issues. Mr. Chandler introduced the idea of a creating a state level committee designed to screen bills to see how they would affect the cost of housing, which would transfer the accountability of the issues to the state.
Mr. Smith’s part of the presentation provided shocking facts and statistics regarding Oregon’s timber industry, federal forest lands, the growing problem of forest fires, and the economic and ecological impacts of the issues we’re dealing with regarding these issues. Of the topics discussed, the one that really stuck with me was the negligence of the federal government to manage the federal forests in Oregon. These forestlands have become overgrown with non-native trees, insects, and pests that suffocate our native trees and add to the problem of forest fires. If these federal forests were being actively managed the way Oregon’s experts know how to do, we not only would have healthier forests, but it would also provide significant economic growth and job creation. Oregon’s Douglas Firs are the most valuable trees you can find, yet we allow thousands of acres of them die due to invasive species, and out of control forest fires that are a result of these unmanaged lands.
Everyday on the campaign trail has taught me something new, and the opportunity to attend these types of forums have given me the chance to learn from experts on topics that have worked in these industries for years and have valuable insight that I’m very thankful to have heard.
Intern, Laura Morett for Oregon