Vote for The Calculator!

Chuck Sheketoff

The Governor's response to the Speaker's education budget plan - and the comments from the political peanut gallery - got me thinking: What's with the proposals for budgeting by simple formulas? Don't we elect folks to review and prioritize government programs and services and respond to emerging needs and opportunities?

Assume for a moment that the amount allocated in the budget for the Portland police and fire disability payments was set according to a mathematical formula like the education proposals getting attention in Salem. Would people be happy if the budget was within that limit, even with the recently exposed problems continuing? Of course they wouldn't.

This budgeting by simple formulas idea seems to be an easy route to avoid making tough decisions and a sure-fire way to eliminate political leadership in tacking Oregon's problems and opportunities.

  • (Show?)

    Chuck, I think the formula is popular for two reasons.

    First, it moves the annual debate over education funding off of the agenda. The education budget has hamstrung the legislature for years now; perhaps the only viable institutional solution is to make it a formula.

    Second, it creates predictability. Uncertainty over school funding year in and year out is very damaging to parental confidence and commitment to the schools. Predictability, even at a lower Minnis 51% level at least has the advantage of predictability.

    If you believe we already have a failure of budgetary leadership at the state level (it doesn't need to be eliminated when it's not there already) then why wouldn't you support a formula?

  • David (unverified)


    Absolutely it creates predictability, which is good, but the numbers in that predictability do stink. I remember back a couple months ago watching the Education Forum hosted by the D's in Salem (which no R attended by the way) and virtually every superintendent (from all across the state, Red and blue areas) said two things:

    1. We want predictabilty


    1. If the level of predictabilty is too low, that's worse than having an unpredictable yet higher number.
  • Bailie (unverified)

    The level of funding is too high. It keeps the Oregon K-12 status quo in place. That is the last thing Oregon needs. At this time K-12 is hemorrhaging because of very poor allocation of funding. We have the 8th highest compensated K-12 workforce (Chalkboard Project 2005) at the expense of shortened school years, laid-off teachers, 4th highest student/teacher ratio, curtailed programs, poor graduation rates and the next-to-the-last attendance record in the U.S. If Oregon teachers were compensated in line with Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Montana, North and South Dakota and others, we would have an additional $300 to 900 million per year. The result would be 5,000 - 8,000 additional teachers, complete programs, full school years and smaller classes. An additional by-product would most likely be higher graduation and attendance rates.

    Oregon is ranked 36th in affluence ("per capita income")( , pg 78). . We can't afford the high spending we would like to become accustomed.

  • Marcello (unverified)

    If Oregon teachers were compensated in line with Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Montana, North and South Dakota and others, we would have an additional $300 to 900 million per year.

    And if Oregon teachers were compensated in in line with Walmart employees, we would easily be able to afford twice the number of teachers. Of course they would be all high school graduates (with a few dropouts as well). But look at the incredible teacher to student ratios! And we could have the longest school years in the nation! I am sure Oregonians can't wait for that to happen!

    Seriously, I don't understand why teachers should not be paid more, since they already get less than people in the private sector with the same level of education. The problem is not primarily teacher pay, there are a lot of things that could be done to improve education with the current funding, but since those things would not hurt the teacher's unions, R's in the House and Senate are not interested. I could talk to my senator and representative about the rising cost of health care coverage and PERS until I turn blue in the face, they are not going to do a thing about it unless it hurts the evil teacher's unions.

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    If pre-k through college is in the mix, there's still a funding decision on the agenda...albeit "easier." But do we really want a formula to govern the appropriate level - shouldn't we be looking at results,opportunities, needs, etc.?

  • Bailie (unverified)

    Marcello, Why should Oregon K-12 employees receive higher compensation than almost all other states? The average salary per Oregon K-12 teacher is $50,790.00 (NEA, June 2005). Oregon's K-12 benefits package is the highest rated in the U.S. with Wisconsin a distant 2nd, 11 percent behind Oregon (Chalkboard Project 2005). This very high compensation has become the limiting factor for expanding educational opportunities in Oregon. What is more important, quality education for Oregon's children or very high compensation for the teachers? It is obvious that we are not getting both. The states previously mentioned have, by most measures, better academic results than Oregon.

  • Bailie (unverified)

    Chuck, I agree with your question. Oregon does not have a funding problem. Oregon does have an allocation of funding problem. Circumstances change and that is why we have a legislature. Too bad it is not as functional as it should be. The powers of Oregon (including Gov. Kulongoski) are clearly not guided by what is best for the students/children of Oregon.

  • (Show?)


    I'm not sure how to react to your post. It's hard at this point not to react to school funding issues from the gut. My daughter's middle school, located in one of the more affluent areas in the City, just cut class sessions from 7 a day to 6 a day and cut a bunch of electives. My son's high school seems to have let go their track coach and hired an 18 year old (profiled in the Trib) with no prior experience and no commitment to even stay around for the Spring.

    I guess I'm not surprised to hear the Supers advocating for more funding and the Dems urging them on. But are either group figuring out how we can broker a real solution that will pass the legislature?

    I'm not so sure that a predictable, if lower, figure is worse than an unpredictable higher figure. At a lower level, local taxing authorities and PTAs can figure out exactly what they have to do. When things are unpredictable, you never know where you stand, year to year, program to program.

    If I were the Dems, I'd propose right now to split the difference between Minnis and Kulongoski--fix spending at 55% of revenues and let's get this thing DONE.

    I agree completely with the spirit of Chuck's post, but my gosh, for the last few sessions, we've been told things weren't working because of the budget shortfalls. Now suddenly we have a budget surplus and the Legislature still can't get their act together.

  • howard (unverified)


    Your assertion: - "I don't understand why teachers should not be paid more, since they already get less than people in the private sector with the same level of education." - does not contain much validity.

    <h2>How do you define "level of education"?</h2>

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