The sneaker wave of Election 2012 is K-12 public education reform.
Despite the noise of the candidate campaigns, the challenging (and often conflicting) economic indicators, and the tragedies in Afghanistan and Libya - there are real issues on the ballot this November.
As a whole our decisions will determine what our government does, and how it does it.
Leaders chosen will facilitate a budget-process, empower public strategies, and determine the rules of the game for many aspects of our private and public enterprises.
For the most part, we struggle over the "sexy" issues: health care, human services, corrections, transportation, and tax policy.
In 2011 the Oregon Legislature enabled a near-total overhaul of the K-12 public education system.
Within this new framework the Governor of Oregon has significantly more influence. We have flattened authorities. Structures and systems have been recast.
During the interim a small army of experts created a new reform model. This bulk of this work was done in quiet - with few legislators, even fewer local education leaders involved in the real decision-making.
It can be argued that fewer cooks make better stew. And on the surface many of the principles involved are rational - virtuous even.
After all, who among us can disagree with expecting "excellence" of all young Oregonians as they pursue intellectual discovery?
And who would disagree with the value of empowering students with skillsets targeted to the challenges of 21st Century economics.
The plan is impressive - a glossy profile of what a new education program should look like. Perhaps it is precisely what it promises to be.
However, process still matters.
Oregon has a legacy of independence.
Oregonians are often weary of centralization of power, capable of frustrating even the best of policies when pushed too far, too fast.
197 school districts continue to exist because the people living within those districts want them to exist.
The elected school boards charged with the education of the students living within their districts take the duties seriously - as seriously as the state leaders charged with development of the new plan.
Our system is a partnership between the State of Oregon and 197 independent school districts (and the US Government).
Oregon schools are sustained through public and private means: state funding keeps the doors open, but communities make them successful.
It is a partnership where the State of Oregon sustains the majority of operational costs; local school districts support operations and sustain capital investments.
It is a unique relationship between government, private supporters, and community interests.
It is a genuine partnership with shared responsibilities - shared values.
Precisely because of these factors, there are expectations of the partnership.
Partnerships are built upon trust and absent trust - storms arise.
All involved in education believe in higher standards: most of us understand the necessity of models that provide the resources for making these higher standards plausible.
Let us encourage all sides of our partnership to reach out beyond the boundaries of comfort and convention.
Let us facilitate a conversation during this new Legislative Session to review the work accomplished, build upon the structures and systems envisioned, and realize a shared vision for K-12 reform.
We have too much at stake to allow preventable storms to stall the development of a next generation public education enterprise that we so desperately need.
This is our community, public education remains our responsibility.