Make New Friends But Keep The Old

By:Leslie Pugmire Hole.
Published October 19, 2016 in the Wilsonville Spokesman

Full disclosure: This is not a clever observational personal column. And it’s not a stodgy anonymous Editorial Board missive. It’s somewhere in the middle. 

Professionally, politics and ‘causes’ are a part of daily life working for a newspaper. I have to follow them, research them, debate them and write about them. But personally, it takes a lot to get me fired up about politics (maybe because I’ve used up all that energy at work). 

But this election cycle, I actually sat up and took notice of a ballot measure on a personal level for the same reason any of us do: it meant something to me. 

Ballot Measure 99 would restore stable funding for Oregon’s unique environmental education program, Outdoor School. Once an annual rite of passage for all 11-to 12-year-olds in Oregon, the Outdoor School program has fallen victim to different fiscal priorities and become either nonexistent for some school districts, available only to those whose parents could finance it, or watered down to a couple of short days. 

Typical of the Oregon Legislature, in 2015 a bill was passed that directed the Oregon State University Extension Service to assist school districts in providing outdoor school programs — but it declined to provide any money. 

Outdoor School, it seemed, was something everyone agreed we should have but no one wanted to pay for it. 

Measure 99 would use annual Oregon Lottery funds, currently allocated to the Administrative Services Economic Development Fund (and expected to average $5-$22 million per year) for statewide Outdoor School funding. The measure prohibits any allocation to Outdoor School that would reduce lottery monies to education or parks and natural resources. 

Why is Ballot Measure 99 the one to catch my interest and support? I’ve been following the campaign of M99 supporters, listened to passionate pleas for help and even attended a fundraiser for the measure. There I heard my story spoken by others, time and time again: Outdoor School was one of the most impactful experiences I had from grades 1-12. It introduced me to the treasure of natural resources we have in Oregon. It taught me how exciting science can be. Outdoor School is an even-playing field learning environment, where everyone leaves their former classroom baggage behind. Being a counselor at Outdoor School exposed leadership skills I didn’t know I had. 

In a nutshell I heard: Outdoor School helped me see how amazing Oregon really is and how important my role in it can be. 

As an Oregonian, there a few things that make me particularly proud: public beaches, the Bottle Bill, Crater Lake vodka, the St. Johns Bridge and the Oregon Shakespeare Company. And Outdoor School. 

Over my adulthood when living in other parts of the country I have told many people about Outdoor School. When I returned to Oregon after years away I was heartbroken to find that many schools had cut Outdoor School from the curriculum. 

Now we have a chance to bring it back and help restore its role as a transformative educational experience for Oregon students. I for one will be voting yes on Measure 99 and I hope everyone else is considering the same. 

Leslie Pugmire Hole is editor of the Wilsonville Spokesman.

Read article on the Wilsonville Spokesman's site here.