Salem, OR (June 7, 2016) - Calls for resignations or new state laws requiring school districts to test for lead are simply not enough when it comes to the health and safety of Oregon's school children.
Now is the time to ensure the safety of children in Oregon. Recent studies in schools have demonstrated toxic levels of lead in school drinking water and elevated levels of the radioactive gas radon in school classrooms.
"Lead is very toxic to children's developing nervous systems and lead poisoning can lead to irreversible brain and nervous system damage," said Salem oncologist Dr. Bud Pierce. "The radioactive gas radon is an important cause of lung cancer, especially in non-smokers."
Dr. Pierce is calling on Governor Brown to fund a "Back to Safe School" program. This emergency program will allow Oregon's public schools to pay for lead and radon testing this summer so parents from Portland to Medford, Astoria to Baker, can rest assured that their children will return to safe schools this September - and provide the same assurances for their teachers - while not having to raid their existing school funds to pay for the hurry-up testing and repairs. The program can be run with a handful of existing state employees who are working this summer at either the Department of Education or the State Economic Development Agency.
"This situation, and many like it, calls for real leadership from the Governor's office. No finger pointing, just low cost coordination between the Governor, the Department of Education, Department of Environmental Quality, and the Oregon Health Authority to ensure that the current emergency is rectified, and that all schools have active programs in place to ensure the safety of our children in our schools," said Pierce.
"If the funds have to be temporarily reassigned from long term projects, so be it," said Pierce. "Protecting our students and teachers from health and safety hazards that can threaten their long-term health and learning is a top public priority, at least for me it is."
"Parents have to know that the physical well-being of their children will not be compromised when they walk through the schoolhouse door. Our teachers deserve no less an assurance regarding their own health," said Pierce. "Parents, teachers, and our students also deserve to be told immediately when anything at school threatens their health and safety."
"That said, I firmly believe that providing a safe and healthy risk-free environment remains the responsibility of our school districts. It is nothing short of appalling that Portland officials acted in such wanton and irresponsible manner. Heads should ultimately roll there. But, that's a local decision to make as it is fundamental that local school leaders test for lead, radon and other environmental risks at school and communicate about this with their students, staff, and parents," said Pierce.
"Under my proposal, the state will not be taking over this core school district responsibility. I am not proposing a permanent new state program here. If the Oregon school districts choose to tap into these emergency funds to do hurry-up testing and mitigation, I propose the funds used be subtracted from the district's allotment of state school funds in the next biennium," said Pierce. "This will not only ensure that the state is not taking over the district's obligations, but it also ensures that the district does not overspend on the job because the state is picking up the tab."
Under Pierce's plan, the state of Oregon will provide the funds this summer so there are no excuses and parents don't have to be concerned that their kids are at risk when they go back to school in September.
Pierce concluded, "We have heard enough excuses by administrators and concerns from parents already."
Bud Pierce, M.D, Ph.D. is a business owner and senior partner of Hematology/Oncology of Salem, one of the last physician owned practices on the West Coast. He announced his candidacy for governor on Sept.10, 2015, on the Republican ticket and won the party's nomination for Governor in the May primary. Approved photos and biography can be found at www.BudPierce.com/newsroom.
Contact: Stacey Kafka, Bud Pierce for Governor Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-509-9575.