(Update: I lost the School Board race by a margin nearly identical to my loss in the earlier State Representative contest. If I ever run for office again, I will update this page at that time. Until then, this page represents my most recent statement of policy positions.)
In education policy, I favor our core values of freedom and equality. Education is the key to opportunity; so every child – without distinction – needs access to a high-quality education.
Public school education management is a constant battle for funding. That’s unlikely to change in our lifetimes.
Last year I ran for the Oregon State House of Representatives, largely motivated by my commitment to public education. I believe that to the greatest extent possible, most of the funding for our public schools should be sourced at the State level, rather than through local property taxes. Admittedly, that campaign was rather a long-shot run for office; so now I am hoping to work on bolstering the education system at the local level.
On the one hand, the schools need money. In SFSD, most of our school district’s buildings are outdated, and as you probably know, there’s currently a bond proposal to raise some of the money required for maintenance and upgrades. But the funding question goes well beyond the buildings. We must offer competitive compensation to attract and retain top talent among our educators and support staff. We know that smaller class sizes lead to better educational outcomes, from reading levels to graduation rates; but achieving smaller class sizes requires hiring more staff, and staff costs money. Some kids need Special Education support, some kids need ESL support, some kids have IEPs or 504s for learning disabilities or behavior problems: and our educational system has a responsibility to meet those needs.
On the other hand, community members want to be certain that the school district is practicing good stewardship of public resources. I have two decades of business experience: so I look forward to sorting through the spreadsheets, delving into the details, and working with my fellow School Board members to find solid solutions for our budgetary constraints.
We believe in a free and open democratic society. We believe in equality. We believe in community. We believe in building a brighter future where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.
Initially, I was a bit hesitant to run for School Board, because I keep hearing these nightmare stories about contentious confrontations at school board meetings across the country: notably, nearby in Keizer, where just last Fall a shouting match between opposing parties in the audience caused the School Board to move to online-only meetings. Based on stories such as this, one might argue that School Boards are on the front line of the “culture war.”
But here in the Silver Falls School District, I like to think we’re not at war with our neighbors. We don’t always agree about everything, and that’s okay; but we’re willing to be civil and work together to solve our problems diplomatically.
Like most of the people in our community, I believe in equality for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Nobody should be told to feel ashamed of who they are or how they were born. It’s up to each of us to see the beauty in others, and to accept our differences as another part of this world’s many wonders.
Like most of the people I have ever spoken to on the subject, I am opposed to censorship. When I was a teen in the early 90’s, there was a big political push to censor music that some people found offensive, including the heavy rock music that I was into at the time; and I have been opposed to censorship ever since.
Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and the freedom of inquiry, are fundamental to a fully functioning free and democratic society. Without intellectual freedom, our public schools cannot properly serve the children.
But these days, extremists on both sides are calling for censorship.
The far right. On the far right, some extremists can’t yet find it in their hearts to acknowledge that gay and transgender people exist and have equal rights just like everyone else. These far-right extremists are calling for the censorship of books about the gay experience. I ask you now, dear reader: is your sexual orientation based on some books that you read when you were young? Of course not! Your sexual orientation is based on the way you were born, and no book you read is going to change that, one way or the other; and the same is true for everyone else. Let kids learn.
Other far-right extremists (notably the Governor of Florida) wish to censor books that discuss left-wing ideology, particularly on the subject of race. That’s misguided. If we disagree with another person’s ideas, we can’t make those ideas go away by silencing them. Instead, we can influence the conversation by having honest discussions that focus on our core values of equality, tolerance, and liberty. Some people are going to disagree with us, and that’s their right. As compassionate people, it’s our responsibility to try to understand why our neighbors are upset, and to try to help create more effective solutions for real problems in the real world.
The far left. There is a far-left social movement exerting a powerful influence on our society today. You are aware of this. The movement’s detractors have many names for it. The movement’s insiders avoid calling it by any name at all. For the most part, those who name it are those who question its goals: and for that reason, merely acknowledging the movement’s existence has come to be considered offensive in polite conversation among liberal sympathizers. The fact that so many people are perfectly willing to go along with these sorts of mental gymnastics shows just how influential the movement has already become.
This social movement enforces dogmatic conformity by systematically targeting dissenters, publicly vilifying them as evil heretics, and ruining their lives as thoroughly as possible. That’s misguided. If we disagree with another person’s ideas, we can’t make those ideas go away by silencing them. Instead, we can influence the conversation by having honest discussions that focus on our core values of equality, tolerance, and liberty. It’s true for both sides.
Although this social movement paints itself as America’s salvation, the movement’s reliance on tactics of targeting independent-minded individuals with severe punishments, most often for minor infractions of alignment and tone, ultimately makes this movement a serious threat to everyone’s freedom.
Contrary to the Narrative, far-left censorship is very rarely related to the use of objectively offensive terminology. Instead, far-left extremists primarily engage in censorship for the purpose of enforcing ideological conformity. That trend should concern anyone who values intellectual freedom. Far-left extremists preferentially target moderate voices for cancellation, creating a public sphere where only extremists feel free to voice their views. This culture of threats and intimidation and the suppression of free thought has already gone much too far. Ultimately, this movement is a form of totalitarianism. Reasonable people must be willing to say so.
To the extent that local School Boards are the guardians of intellectual freedom, it’s essential for us to stand up to this emerging extremism.
I’m here to stand up to extremists on both sides. Let cooler heads prevail.
Moderate and pragmatic.
Vote Jesse S. Smith for School Board!