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Advocates filed an initiative petition Sept. 22

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Outdoor School students from October 2014 get ready to go to their next activity.

Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition, a nonprofit that helped usher through a bill establishing Outdoor School for All in the last legislative session, is now launching an initiative petition to help fund it.

Rex Burkholder, a former Metro councilor and co-founder of the coalition, says the signature drive is really just an “insurance policy” in case their efforts to lobby the 2016 legislature and Governor Kate Brown for funding fail. Burkholder says the state would need $22 million to ensure 55,000 students per year get the week-long camp-like experience. Children typically do outdoor school in the fall or spring of their fifth or sixth grade year.

The initiative petition filed Sept. 22 would ask voters in the Nov. 8, 2016 general election to fund Outdoor School through lottery dollars, but needs 100,000 signatures to make it to the ballot.

A 3 p.m. event Sunday, Sept. 27 at the Portland Mercado — a mostly outdoor market on Southeast Foster Road — will kick off this year’s efforts for the coalition. There, the group would start collecting the 1,000 signatures needed to get a ballot title from the Oregon Secretary of State.

“I think we can get the signatures pretty easily because people just love outdoor school,” Burkholder says.

Senate bill 439, passed this spring, established the Oregon State University Extension Service as the head of the program. They are charged with creating curriculum geared toward the state science standards, helping to set up programs across the state or support existing programs and oversee distribution of state funds for them.

Shasta Kearns Moore
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