Message to Lawmakers: Fully Fund Education

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Joint Ways and Means
Umatilla School District Superintendent Heidi Sipe testifies before the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Saturday in Boardman.

Members of the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee got an earful Saturday from local constituents urging the lawmakers to invest more in education, including one Umatilla student who told them the state’s continual lack of education funding has made her change her career plans.

“I grew up with both parents in education,” said Umatilla High School sophomore Cameron Sipe, whose mother, Heidi Sipe, is the superintendent of the Umatilla School District. “I’ve seen them spend their own time and money on programs for students.”

The lawmakers were at the SAGE Center in Boardman on Saturday for a hearing on the state budget.

The UHS student told the lawmakers the state will lose quality teachers to other fields if the Legislature continues to fail to fully fund education. In fact, she told them that she had been considering a career in either education or architecture, but after seeing cuts to school programs year after year, she has decided to forgo a career in education.

“We need good teachers and I’m sorry I won’t be one of them,” she said.

A couple of minutes later, Heidi Sipe, fighting back tears, told the lawmakers she has had to lay off district employees in six of the last eight years due to budget cuts. Just last week, she had to tell three more district employees that they wouldn’t have a job with the district next year.

“And what breaks my heart is that they understood – because they are used to it,” Sipe said. “It’s essential that we get more money for education.”

The committee members, which included State Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) and State Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner), also heard from those in higher education and the impact cuts to education is having on students and classrooms.

Blue Mountain Community College instructor Tina Martinez told the committee that the financial burden is shifting more and more to the students, making obtaining a college education more difficult with each passing year.

BMCC student Ashley Clark called BMCC “a true gem in Eastern Oregon” and told the committee that she hoped they could see value in community colleges.