Tribune: We all benefit from LO's great schools

Jon Gustafson
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When my partner and I found out we were going to be parents seven years ago one of the first things we did (after calling everyone we knew) was start looking for a house in Lake Oswego. As much as we loved the vibrancy and diversity of North Portland, we knew there was no better place in the state to raise a child than in Lake Oswego. I was already working here at the time, and my partner’s commute to Woodburn (where he works as a middle school art teacher) would be cut in half. There were many different elements that attracted us to Lake Oswego, a strong sense of community, wonderful parks and natural areas, outstanding recreational opportunities, a low crime rate and housing we could afford. But nothing proved as influential in our decision as the quality of Lake Oswego’s public school system.

Lake Oswego’s schools are a defining element of our city. They affect our quality of life, our property values, and can attract the type of professionals and businesses that can help our city prosper. That is why I believe that school-funding issues should not be the sole responsibility of the school district. Support for our schools should come from everywhere. Regardless of whether someone has children in the schools or not, everyone benefits from Lake Oswego having great schools.

But supporting our schools requires more than just lip service. In my campaign for city council I’ve found that not all the candidates do support policies that would benefit our schools.

One way to support our school system is to endorse policies that make Lake Oswego attractive and attainable to young families. Urban renewal brought us Lakeview Village and Millennium Plaza. These gathering spaces made possible activities like farmers market and movies in the park, which attract both young and old to the city.

The Lake Oswego School Board voted to support urban renewal in Foothills as a way to increase the student population and to avoid additional school closures. I support the school board decision, but not all the candidates do.

City leaders should coordinate and cooperate with the school district and the LOSD Foundation to develop a comprehensive plan for the many long-term funding issues faced by our schools. There are people in our community with the knowledge, expertise and motivation to develop the plan; the key is bringing them together and equipping them with the resources to take action.

I’ve worked alongside other parents while volunteering at Hallinan Elementary School in my daughter’s classroom. I know firsthand the challenges that large class sizes have on kids and teachers. For now, we rely on the passion and dedication of involved parents and a successful LOSD Foundation, but without the support of city leaders who are willing to plan and invest in the future of our schools, we won’t be able to guarantee the same great school system for the next generation of Lake Oswegans.

Jon Gustafson is a candidate for Lake Oswego City Council.