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Citizen's View: Starting strong in the new school year

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As a family with kids in school, our New Year begins in September. Every fall, each member of our family identifies key priorities for the coming year. As your state representative, I am doing the same thing.

This year, I will continue to work hard, as I always have, to defend reproductive freedom, prevent gun violence and protect our clean air and water. I will also emphasize three key goals: increasing economic opportunity, strengthening our public schools and forging bipartisan solutions.

My first mission is to expand opportunity in Oregon. Census data released this week shows that Oregon’s median household income is up, but it’s still below pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation.

Seventeen of Oregon’s 36 counties have yet to regain all the jobs lost in the Great Recession. Many of these counties, such as Jackson County where I grew up, are far from the Portland metropolitan area. To expand the jobs base throughout our state, I will work to improve Oregon’s transportation system, grow our agricultural economy and support innovation in our technology, clean energy and manufacturing sectors.

I will also champion affordable child care and fair workplace policies to increase opportunity for working families. We need to build an economy in which Oregonians can earn a living and still care for their children and aging parents.

I will also focus on strengthening our public schools.  Over the past 100 years, five generations of my family have attended Oregon public schools. My own kids are now in ninth and 12th grade at Lake Oswego High School. By the time my kids graduate, some Oregon high school students will have received a year less of instructional time than their peers in the State of Washington.

I think we can do better at preparing our kids for a strong future. That’s why I am advocating for more career-technical education and accelerated learning opportunities in our high schools, increased instructional time and steps to improve high school completion rates.

To achieve progress on these and other issues, we need to work together across geographic boundaries and party lines. Growing up on the outskirts of Ashland, I always saw our home state as a place where we shared the work of solving problems, even if we didn’t share every opinion. For the past two years, I have been fortunate to undertake some productive teamwork with Republican and Democratic legislators to grow Oregon’s new agricultural economy, improve the state’s response to sexual assault crimes and help survivors of domestic abuse. We have accomplished a lot together, and together we can accomplish much more.

Oregon needs leaders whose instinct is to build consensus. We need leaders who also have the discernment to know when it’s necessary to stand up for important policies, even if consensus is unachievable. That is the approach I am taking in my work as a state representative.

In the next seven weeks, our political discourse will become increasingly polarized as campaigns draw stark contrasts between candidates and positions. It will be important for us to treat one another carefully during this season. We need to keep our eyes on the long game and protect our relationships, so we can continue working together to address Oregon’s big challenges. That’s how I plan to move forward.  I am eager to work with you, and for you, in this exciting new year.

Rep. Ann Lininger is a mother, attorney and state representative whose district includes Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland.  She and her husband are raising their two children in Lake Oswego.