Friday, November 18, 2005

Tribute to Senator Tom Hartung

I was saddened by the news that Tom Hartung passed away.

He was a truly fine man. A total gentleman. He had a distinguished career as a legislator that spanned four decades.

I came to know him in 1997 as his Senate Education Committee was trying to craft a decent charter school law. The effort failed that session, but we tried again in 1999, that time successfully.

Tom was a strong supporter of charter schools, and without his efforts it is certain that there would be no charter law in Oregon today. He was a moderate Republican, which helped bring the charter school issue into the mainstream in Oregon.

He supported me in my run for State Superintendent, which he certainly did not have to do. I am more conservative than he was, and I am sure that his support of me came at some cost to him.

We stayed in touch after he retired from the legislature. We'd chat every couple of months. Even after he retired he kept an active hand in school policy and other political issues. He was a grad of Jefferson High School class of 1950, and it pained him to see what has become of Jefferson today. I know he hoped that the charter law might be a way to save Jefferson, and he was frustrated that there were so many obstacles to making that happen.

Tom Hartung, here's to you. A good man, a life well lived, and a legacy that will grow with every new charter school in the state of Oregon.

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