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Oregon Editors Say:

Chalkboard Project wants you

Get involved in this independent conversation about Oregon schools

The (Salem) Statesman Journal

What would it take to make Oregon schools the best in the nation? Not just good enough to stay open all year or to have desks for every student. Not just good enough to avoid being the butt of Doonesbury jokes.

But truly great ' the kind of school system that other states would try to copy, that businesses would move here to take advantage of.

The Chalkboard Project is working to define what such excellence looks like and how Oregonians could make it happen. Five charitable foundations have joined forces on this assignment, pledging more than &

36;2 million to do research and conduct focus groups around the state.

But the project can't succeed unless you and thousands of other Oregonians participate. Attend a theatrical summary of the findings so far. Volunteer to take part in a forum, whether you're actively involved with schools or haven't entered one in years. Invite a Chalkboard speaker to your church group or service club. Visit the Web site to learn how our schools stack up against others, and what tough choices this state faces if it wants to improve schools while living within its means.

Oregonians have been trying to reform schools since the early 1990s, with muddled results. ... Too often, Oregon's debate about education starts and stops with one question: How much money will schools get? The Chalkboard Project takes a far broader view.

— Thanks to the financial backing of its partners, organizers can crisscross the state listening to everyday Oregonians. Only then do they move on to principals, unions, school boards, state-education officials and legislators.

Most important, this group is neutral; it has no turf to protect.

The project likely will bring some proposals to the 2005 Legislature. With that in mind, members addressed a House committee on Friday. They probably will return with more ideas for future sessions.

But not all improvements require legislation. The project also will hold parents and other community members accountable for improving schools, as we should be.

Oregon has long been blessed by the individual efforts of its charitable foundations. Now they are focusing their resources on the issue that matters most to our future: improving our schools.

The most important voice in this discussion is yours.

For once, the field is level; you can be heard as clearly as any special-interest group. For the sake of Oregon's children, please find a way to take part.