Sen. Merkley holds educational hearings at Powellhurst-Gilbert school

Discover the ultimate destination for educations from all over Oregon – and why they came to an East Portland elementary school to speak with a US Senator …

A substantial group gathers to watch the official field hearing regarding the reauthorization of President George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” act.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Those from outside our area who came to Gilbert Heights Elementary School to speak with United States Senator Jeff Merkley may have wondered if they were lost, as they navigated to their Powellhurst-Gilbert destination on July 15.

The school they were looking for, located at 12839 SE Holgate Boulevard, is definitely off the beaten path. But, more than 100 folks came out to give testimony, or listen to the proceedings. At 10:00 a.m. the hearings commenced.

After a private meeting with supporters, Merkley held an “official field hearing” of the US Senate Committee on health Education Labor & Pensions.

US Senator Jeff Merkley listens, while an educator gives testimony.

Merkley was hearing from Oregonians on education policy. Specifically the topic was the pending reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The senator said he also wanted to hear about the importance of Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) education for the future of kids now in school.

“The panelists are from all over Oregon,” said the senator’s deputy communications director, Courtney Warner Crowell. “We have representatives here all the way from Umatilla in eastern Oregon, to the Coos Bay area on the coast. This is a chance for Oregonians to provide input to the Senator, and the official Senate committee.”

Attendees listen as educators from across the State testify.

This hearing was timely, Warner Crowell said, because the committee is currently writing the bill that reauthorizes, ESEA – also known as the “No Child Left Behind” act.

One person after another read statements giving reasons that ESEA should be reauthorized, as the two-hour session proceeded in the Gilbert Heights Elementary School gym.

Franklin High School junior Chase Forman, a member of FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1432, “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, shows off their robot at Senator Merkley’s hearing.

Supporting the STEM education discussion at the meeting, students from several FIRST Robotics Competition programs around the state set up their robots in the gym. “With these robots, these teams are displaying their know-how, and the value of STEM-oriented educational programs in our schools,” Merkely said.

Next up, the committee will submit the bill for markup. “Hopefully, in the next year or so, we will have a reauthorization bill passed,” Warner Crowell said as the meeting ended.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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