SALEM, OR -- The statewide graduation rate has seen modest improvement, but lawmakers agree more needs to be done. A bipartisan group is now looking at what’s working in Oregon schools and what needs to be done to improve the education system. State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) is the only Central Oregon Legislator on the new Joint Committee on Student Success. KBND News talked with him Friday in Salem.
So far, the committee has heard from students, teachers and administrators, in an effort to gather data. On Friday, they heard testimony from parent-advocates for charter schools, homeschooling and students with disabilities. Senator Knopp tells KBND News they're trying to find "The best practices of the districts that have best graduation rates, best attendance and are doing good work, and see if we can’t create a model of what really every district needs or is hoping to have. Then, obviously connecting that up with financial resources."
Knopp points to good things occurring at local districts, including Career and Technical Educational (CTE) programs at Bend-La Pine and Redmond schools. But, he says districts struggle with resources due to a number of factors, including PERS. "You have urban, you have rural, you have communities of color, you have differences that are unique to them, so I don’t think you can do a ‘one size fits all.’ But, the important thing is that you have equality of opportunity," says Knopp. "The student that lives in Burns should have the same opportunity to get an education, or get the same education, as someone in Beaverton, Lake Oswego, downtown Portland, Medford or Bend. And so, one of our goals is to make sure there is equality of opportunity. The outcome is really up to those who put in the effort, but I think we want to make sure that we're giving everybody an equal chance."
The Joint Committee on Student Success is modeled after the committee that created the $5 billion transportation package, which passed the Legislature last year. After the February session, committee members will travel the state on a "road show," when they'll meet with more families, districts and business owners. Knopp says the committee has until the end of 2018 to come up with a package of proposals to be considered in the 2019 session. He admits it's a short timeline, "It's going to be a lot of work," Knopp says, "You have to bring all the differing ideas together and figure out what’s going to work best and try to find a bipartisan consensus and move through the politics of it."
Photo: (L-R) Committee Co-Chair Sen. Arnie Roblan, Sen. Mark Hass, Sen. Tim Knopp and Sen. Ginny Burdick listen to testimony during Friday's Committee on Student Success hearing.