There’s nothing more personal to anyone than their kids. Parents see everything that is unique about their children, and we send our kids to school hoping that their teachers, too, can see the particular talents and joys, fears and challenges that they bring into the classroom. The job of School Board members is to treat every kid with the same urgency we treat our own.
My hope in running for the board is to help guarantee that all kids in Eugene get an education that challenges them, that engages them, that makes them feel like the world is an interesting place they’re capable of exploring, and that helps them grow up as full, confident human beings. To make that happen – and to make the best of our limited budget – it is critical that the voices of teachers, paraprofessionals, parents and students have a powerful role in shaping school policies.
Over the past 25 years, Oregon has gone from one of the best to one of the most troubled school systems in the country; we now have the 3rd-largest class size and the 3rd-lowest high school graduation rates. This isn’t the fault of the 4J district: it’s a result of the wealthiest people and biggest corporations in the state not paying their fair share. As a School Board member, I will be a fierce advocate for restoring our ability to provide an excellent education to every child in the state.
But most of the job of the Board is to play the hand we’re dealt – to make the best of scarce resources. That means listening closely to teachers, parents, students and paraprofessionals so that we can identify where money is being wasted and can be saved; what are the successful initiatives that can be expanded; where we can get big results from investing modest amounts of money. As a board member, I will fight vigorously for more state funding, and meanwhile will work to ensure that 4J policies reflect the insight of those with daily, first-hand experience of our schools.
Gordon Lafer is the parent of a 7th grader at Roosevelt Middle School, and has served as a longtime volunteer at Camas Ridge Elementary School and, more recently, as a religious school teacher at Temple Beth Israel. Gordon is a professor at the UO’s Labor Education & Research Center, where he teaches extension classes for workers across the state of Oregon.
In 2009-10, Gordon was on leave from the UO serving as Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor. Since then, he has become nationally known as a fierce defender of public education — including briefing legislators in multiple states about school financing, the importance of small class size, and threats to privatize education.
Gordon has the experience and commitment to work with the district administration and to ensure that the voices of parents, students and educators have a powerful say in crafting school policies.