Success Despite 8th Highest Impoverished School District in the Nation

David Brock Smith

Comments made on the House Floor 03/13/17


Colleagues, what I would like to speak to you about today will be an uncomfortable issue for many, or at least it should be, and that is the social and educational inequities in relation to poverty in our great state.

Colleagues, you heard me speak earlier about these great youth leaders, our 2017 Pacific High School graduates, and our work together for Port Orford-Langlois School District 2CJ.

What you didn’t hear me speak about was the fact that these great accomplishments are achieved in the face of being the 8th highest impoverished school district in the Nation. Yes, as the Oregonian published in December 2016, “one Oregon school district was in the nation's Top 10 districts for school-aged child poverty rates. The bureau estimates that 62 percent of school-aged children in Port Orford-Langlois lived in poverty in 2015. That is the eighth-worst rate among the nation's more than 13,000 schools."  

The article goes on to state, “Oregon's most intense concentrations of school-aged students living in poverty are all in rural places.  Among Oregon's 197 school districts, the 47 with the highest poverty rates are all outside the Portland metro area.” 

The Seattle Times reported on a recent study regarding the cost to boost academic skills for low-income students. It stated, “While everyone from lawmakers to classroom teachers have acknowledged that it costs more to educate children to high standards when they start school with the disadvantages that come from growing up poor, few have been willing to put a price tag on this concept.”  Yet, where do the education dollars, the grant dollars for education go? To the metro areas, the areas that have greater than 40 percent less poverty. 

In addition, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis reported last month that my legislative district, has the highest unemployment in the state, and where the majority of the state has not only recovered from the recession, but areas like Portland have added over 9 percent above pre-recession levels, Southwest Oregon is still 6 percent below pre-recession zero.

Before some of you argue that this is why more tax revenue is needed, I say to you, the citizens of this great state have given billions in more tax dollars, billions more every year, and yet its not enough and the inequity grows.

Colleagues, I want your youth to have the best education, I have to believe that you feel the same about mine. So when I vote for bills, such as last weeks HB 5020, its not to support non-food producing gardens, but to support my ports and the desperately needed economic development they provide my communities. 

When I push back against the narrative from the environmental for profit non-profits, or that of carbon emissions, cap and trade and diesel, that threatens to raise costs to our already struggling rural industries, it is because the emissions don’t come from the people of rural Oregon. The emissions come from urban Oregon.  

The emissions that do come from rural Oregon, are a result of the people of urban Oregon, and their fight against needed forest management, and the subsequent fires that ultimately burn the very carbon the cap and trade advocates support.

Colleagues, everything is relative, quality education is connected to healthy communities, which have lower dependency and crime. Healthy communities and their associated economic development supply needed resource dollars to the state and local government to provide services to our citizens.


When I came here I was told, in jest, “welcome, now you’re part of the problem”. Colleagues, I came here to be part of the solution. Who’s with me?

Joint Editorial with Sen. Jeff Merkley

Ran in Curry Pilot - 03/15/17

Oregon has a long history of pioneering innovative ways to resolve pressing natural resource issues. Our state was built by Americans who relied on the land for their livelihood, and it has been protected and preserved by generations of Oregonians who want to ensure we can all enjoy our state’s wild places and public lands while putting people to work. It’s our Oregon spirit.

Today, the southwestern corner of our state is facing an urgent environmental crisis that will require that Oregon spirit to tackle and overcome.

Sudden Oak Death is a devastating disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of tanoak trees in Curry County. It was first detected there in 2001; about one-third of the county has since been affected. In Oregon, it occurs only in the forests of southwest Curry County, where a containment program is in place to slow the spread. Additionally, a European strain of the Sudden Oak Death pathogen, called EU1, has been detected in Curry County and poses a threat to evergreen trees, including the Douglas fir.

Due to a shortage of resources, we are treating only two dozen of the 65 outbreaks detected in 2016. This is unacceptable.

If further measures aren’t taken, Sudden Oak Death will spread north into Coos County, east into Josephine County, and northeast to Douglas County in coming years. In California, the disease has killed millions of oaks and tanoaks in the coastal region from Monterey to Humboldt Counties. EU1 will compound the destruction in Oregon.

With the potential impacts on our local economy and environment, all of us — every level of government, every industry group, every environmental group — must work together to look for more and better solutions to eradicate these diseases. And, it is essential that we work together to acquire the resources critically needed to address the full scope of the outbreak.

We know collaboration is the best way to address problems like this. That’s why in a time of political divisiveness, we — a Democratic U.S. senator and Republican state representative — are putting aside differences to take this urgent issue head on.

Last week we took the first step in this concerted effort and convened a task force whose mission is to develop a collaboration-based action plan to contain the Sudden Oak Death pathogen and eradicate the EU1 pathogen, using the best available science. In true Oregon spirit, we had more than 40 partners from cities, counties, federal agencies, and industry associations agree to ongoing participation. We are grateful for the time and commitment they are contributing toward this effort.

This challenge is too great for one agency or one level of government to solve. Our task force contains unique and expansive expertise on Sudden Oak Death, and it will take all of us working together — as generations of Oregonians did before us — to identify resources, develop and implement science-based solutions, educate our neighbors, preserve our environment, and save our economy.


Capitol Phone: 503-986-1401
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-379, Salem, Oregon 97301