Erika Lopez, Hillsboro School Board, Position 1 – Candidate Interview
By Nathan Sosa, WCD Communications Team volunteer
WCD: What first inspired you to run for office?
EL: During the 2016 presidential election, I heard a lot of negative things about people who look like me, who have a background like mine, or who came to this country as immigrants. I thought that, if people are going to tell stories about us, we should be the ones telling those stories.
I’ve always been active in the community, particularly in my kids’ school, but I wanted to get more involved politically. So, I sought out trainings and other opportunities. I wanted to learn as much as I could about local politics.
In 2017, I realized there were no bilingual members of the Hillsboro School Board. There were no Latinx members. I wanted to bring a different voice to the table and that’s why I decided to run.
WCD: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time on the Hillsboro School Board?
EL: I am proud that we were able to pass our construction bond. It is creating visible change in our community. It is helping to fund STEM labs and provide career and technical opportunities for our students. When I see the upgrades, I am excited for my own children, my nieces and nephews, and all of the other kids who will benefit from these things for generations.
I am also proud of our comprehensive health education curriculum. It educates students about how to protect themselves and make healthy decisions. It really saves lives.
Finally, I am proud of the work we did with the City of Hillsboro regarding police in our schools (referred to as “school resource officers” or “SRO”). Over the course of a year, we engaged with community members. We talked to parents, students, and other stakeholders. We heard some powerful stories and I’m proud that people felt safe enough to be vulnerable in front of us. That process changed the way we govern as a board. I hope those processes serve as a blueprint for the future.
WCD: What strengths do you bring to the school board?
EL: I bring several strengths to the board. As chair, I am a consensus builder. I ensure that every board member has a chance to share their opinion. I give everyone an opportunity to participate. I am also a good facilitator.
In addition, I bring my own lived experience to the board as a bi-lingual and bi-cultural woman. I try to give underrepresented communities a voice. I strive to remove barriers so that the people who are most affected have access to decisionmakers. My goal is to enfranchise our parents as well as our students.
Finally, I am compassionate. Everyone’s values and belief systems should be respected. Even when we don’t agree, we can still have healthy dialogue. The more you listen, the more you realize that we all want our kids to be successful, be healthy, and have a great education. I encourage people to find our shared values.
WCD: What are the biggest challenges facing the Hillsboro School District and how do you plan to address them?
EL: Now that we have a plan to return to in-person instruction in the fall, our biggest challenge continues to be a lack of adequate and stable funding for our schools. For many years, K-12 budgets have consistently gone down because schools were competing with other social services. Every year, it is a struggle just to keep our current funding levels. This is especially true for the bigger school districts like ours.
When the laws were changed to equalize education funding around the state, Washington County’s tax dollars were exported to support schools all over Oregon. This has caused shortfalls in our own district. Oregon’s current funding levels are designed for an 85% graduation rate. Unless things change, I don’t see how we’re ever going to get that number up to 100%. I am eager to work with other districts and decisionmakers to find a solution to this ongoing problem.
WCD: How do your values and those of the Democratic party align?
EL: When I read the Washington County Democrats’ platform, I was glad to see a commitment to racial equity because that aligns closely with my values. In every way in which we measure success in our society, we see disparities in our communities of color due to historic racism. Whether it’s education, wealth building, home ownership, or other areas, there is a racial gap. I am excited about the Democrats’ intentional focus on racial equity because that is a lens through which I see many of our problems.
WCD: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you want voters to know about you?
EL: I am really invested in this community. I grew up here. I went to school here and so do my kids. My family lives here. I love Hillsboro. I am pushing for things that will benefit current and future generations for many years to come. I don’t want us to still be
struggling with the same problems ten years from now.
Learn more about Erika Lopez, Candidate for Hillsboro School Board, Position 1, at her campaign website.