In just a few days, voters will need to get their ballots in for the November elections. Given the loud and contentious political environment, it could be easy to miss the local levy for our North Clackamas schools. In fact, it is the vote that will have the greatest impact on our community. I believe a yes vote is absolutely essential for several important reasons.
As a parent of two NCSD students, protecting the quality of our schools is paramount. Like many other families, we moved to Happy Valley specifically because of the quality of the public schools. Whatever metric you look at — attendance, graduation rates, programs and facilities — we have kept what many other school districts have lost. That makes a huge difference for the future of our children.
As a Happy Valley property owner, I have a stake in a strong public-school system that attracts the kind of families that keep our community strong, safe and vital. It also supports a strong local economy, whether it is helping build and maintain a good customer base for local small businesses or providing the workforce they need to thrive. Those things are all important whether or not you have children or grandchildren in the schools right now — and no matter what part of the district you live in. Every person in every neighborhood benefits.
As a volunteer member of the NCSD Budget Committee and as someone who works in the banking industry, I can assure you that our schools urgently need this levy. I have looked very carefully at the numbers and the district's finances. They have worked hard to make every dollar count, especially during and after the damaging cuts forced by the Great Recession, even turning to the use of emergency reserves to protect the classroom when state funding fell short. But the state has told us yet again that they are sending less than it takes to keep our schools whole. Without Measure 3-541, we are facing cuts including the layoff of up to 170 teachers, along with increased class sizes and a drastically shortened school year. That goes to the heart of the education we all count on.
No matter how you look at it, we all benefit from strong schools. Measure 3-541 is what it will take to protect them. In their Oct. 10 editorial endorsement of the levy, the Clackamas Review said it best: "Cuts for local schools could indeed be devastating, but there's a simple and affordable fix: Vote yes on North Clackamas' levy."
Bimpe Onafuwa is a Happy Valley resident, parent and member of the Budget Committee for the North Clackamas School District.