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Legislative successes include new ethnic studies standards, bike/pedestrian funding, bipartisan work

State Rep. Susan McLain told a small crowd of constituents that her overarching aim during the recent Legislative session was to figure out: "How do we make winners and winnners — not winners and losers?"

About 10 people joined McLain Saturday morning, July 29, at Centro Cultural in Cornelius for a casual talk followed by a question-answer session.

McLain, a Forest Grove resident, focused on outcomes from the latest legislative session.

Transportation and education issues were major themes — two areas where McLain said she felt encouraged because both Republicans and Democrats worked together for solutions in these areas while dealing with a budget requiring many cuts.

That bipartisan spirit was one of her overarching goals, McLain said.

She considers the passage of the state's recent transportation bill a big success and hopes it will improve roads, bridges and public transportation for increased safety and decreased congestion.

The bill offers $130 million to expand public transit statewide, McLain said, improving connectivity and frequency of bus service in both rural and urban communities. Washington County will get about $13 million of that. The city of Hillsboro will receive $2.5 million. The city of Forest Grove will get $591,000 and the city of Cornelius will get $301,000.

The bill also set aside more funding for bike and pedestrian improvements, about $1.2 million statewide, as well as more money for the Safe Routes to Schools program, which provides sidewalks and other improvements along pedestrian routes widely used by children on their way to school.

School funding also received a small boost this session. The $8.2 billion going to Oregon public schools is "a huge investment in education," said McLain, a former teacher. "Though it's still not enough."

McLain said she focused most of all on getting money into the classrooms and tried to make cuts in other areas that weren't directly impacting students.

One audience member, a former math teacher, asked McLain about funding for Career and Technical Education programs, which she felt were paramount. Rumors have been flying around the state that legislators would not be funding CTE programs after all, even after voters passed a ballot measure requiring those programs last November. The measure required $800 be spent on each Oregon high school student for CTE, college preparation and dropout prevention.

McLain said the measure was funded but instead of telling district leaders they had to create new programs with the funding, the money can go to support existing programs. That's because the bill earmarked money for such programs, but did not provide any funding source. Money had to be taken out of the general fund.

McLain considers the recently passed ethnic studies bill another success. The bill creates the first set of ethnic studies standards for kindergarten through 12th grade education. Ethnic studies — "the histories and contributions of ethnic and social minorities" — will be incorporated into the state's new social studies curriculum, adopted by 2020.

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