The school district isn't asking for a blank check with vague promises about future investments - its plan is clear

Voters face a tough call in a tightly contested school board race this year. Their decision about the Lake Oswego School District Learning Levy, we hope, will be much easier.

The levy is crucial for both the current and future health of the district, and voters should approve it.

If you're a longtime resident, you're almost certainly familiar with the local option levy. The school district first approved the levy — which is a tax based on assessed property values — in 2000 as a response to changes in statewide education funding, and it was renewed in 2004, 2008 and 2013. The district receives about 12 percent of its budget from the levy, which heading into this election was $1.39 per $1,000 in assessed value.

This year, the district is asking voters to approve a $.25 cent increase in the levy, bringing it to $1.64 per $1,000. Officials say this would not only preserve about 80 teaching, licensed and support positions, but also fund significant new investments in mental health supports, STEM/Innovation, reading, physical education and safety.

Specifically, the new funding would allow the district to add seven new mental health and social-emotional learning counselors — three in elementary schools and four in secondary schools. Eight new STEM/Innovation teachers (six in elementary and two in secondary) would be hired, as would one additional school resource officer. With early reading being perhaps the most significant emphasis in the levy campaign, the district is promising to add three elementary support/learning specialists.

The focus on early reading is inspired, and shows that the district isn't satisfied with a 93% graduation rate that far outpaces the state average. According to the district, about 14% of elementary students face some form of reading challenge, and if students aren't reading at grade level by third grade their track to graduation becomes tenuous.

Similarly, the proposed investment in school counselors is critical as the district — and many others surrounding it — grapple with an ever-expanding docket of mental health issues. Physical health goes hand-in-hand with mental well-being, so adding PE support as another aspect of the levy is another wise choice.

In reading the ballot language and speaking with district officials and school board members, it is clear that they put considerable thought into this. They aren't asking for a blank check with vague promises about future investments; their plan is clear and a future audit would ensure that the funds are used the way they were intended to be.

Lake Oswego is perhaps best known for its high-performing school district. To keep it that way, and ideally see the district rise to new heights, we urge you to vote yes on Measure 3-547.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.