Parents across Oregon are adjusting as summer ends and their children return to school. Oregon’s teachers and school administrators spent much of the summer preparing and are ready for the school year ahead; students are getting back to learning, structure and friends.
As a member of Congress concerned about how policy drives decisions in education, I’ve decided to go back to school too. Last week, I launched a “Congresswoman in the Classroom” initiative to get a better understanding of the successes and needs of Oregon’s public schools. These visits with teachers, administrators, students and parents across Oregon’s 1st Congressional District will help me understand how policy set in Washington affects what goes on in our classrooms.
The good news is, there are many positive things happening in our public schools. Even so, we’ve all heard troubling reports of budget cuts, increasing classroom sizes, teaching to the test and reduced access to subjects like art, civics, career and technical education and second languages.
At the federal level, funding for public schools through No Child Left Behind has been reduced by about 20 percent since 2001. The budget cuts known as sequestration brought additional reductions to programs such as Head Start, Title I funding for low-income schools and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The stage is set for another tough budget battle this fall, and unless we stand together, additional cuts could take effect next year.