Education is the goal; Money is just a means

T.A. Barnhart

I'm using my prerogative as a blogger at BlueOregon to not answer directly the many comments on my piece "Pathetic, Shameful: Oregon School Funding".  There's a lot of great stuff in there, things I will be reading more carefully and studying for working solutions.  But the usual trap has been entered into by many of the respondents, some willingly and others, I know, almost against their will: They just can't let certain statements stand unchallenged.  I applaud their guts in diving into that fray; I choose not to for now.

School budgets are not about money.  School budgets are about education.  Can I say it any plainer?  Money is but a tool, a crude material.  Carpenters use wood, bakers use flour, I use words.  When a contractor finishes building a house, no one sees the wood, the concrete, the pipes, the wires, the insulation; they see a house, soon to be a family's home.  When the Legislature passes an education budget (or doesn't, in the case of Minnis' GOP this year), we note the money being allocated (and withheld) but those of us with kids in the schools really have only one question:  "Will my child's education improve or worsen?"  Have they actually built something we can use?

As progressives, the moment we let any debate become about money, we have lost.  We may win the argument over the money, but we've given up the real issue.  Our country was founded upon three solid goals:  "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  The Revolution was not fought nor the Constitution crafted to found a capitalist empire where every value was reduced to market prices.  One of the greatest sources of strife in the early days of our nation was on just that issue: How important would the making of money be in regard to all other national values?  Whose vision would dominate: Hamilton's or Jefferson's?

But even Hamilton would be shocked, I think, by the role of money in our society.  There is little worth doing that does not have a price tag attached.  For many things, this is fine: a day's work, household items, luxuries, the food we eat, rewards for doing something other people enjoy.  Money is a convenient way for us to share our resources with each other.  It is, however, an odious means by which to value people or judge our schools. 

In the right time and place, we do need to talk about how we spend tax dollars, especially with Oregon's still-crummy economy; we do need to ensure that those dollars are well spent.  We must ensure all our resources are used wisely; money is just one of those resources.  What we cannot allow to happen, no matter how loudly the ignorant and greedy forces of anti-communitarian selfishness scream at us, we cannot let issues that are about quality of life become arguments about money.

I could give a damn where our teachers' pay ranks nationally.  If PERS is screwed up, then we need to fix it.  These are administrative contingencies; they are not fundamental measures of our values (I hope).  We'll forever be trying to figure out the best ways to administer schools and other government services.  As times change, so will needs and so will administrative practices.  That is almost entirely irrelevant to the issue of education.

Education, of course, does not require a school.  I've learned many of my best lessons informally, but I learned to read and write in school.  I learned history and civics and science in school.  I learned the value of white space in design layout; I learned about the Baroque and how to sight-read sheet music.  I learned to play tennis, I learned that a writer can turn the world on its head, and I learned many lessons about living with other human beings.  I learned statistics and how to use a computer.  I got to go to high school 7 periods a day (this is more than one-third more than my son is allowed to take), and I filled those periods with classes that changed my life.  I was introduced to creative writing.  I learned to study, to work hard, to meet requirements, to think about what I was doing and why.  I got educated.

If we let our discussions on education revolve around money, sink down to money, we are doomed.  We might as well indenture our kids to Walmart and let them be trained to be good little corporate-dependent consumers.  I think we want better than that, and if we do, I think we must make our discussions about education be about education, not the funding of education.  We'll decide what a quality education is, what each child needs, what the future is demanding that kids learn -- and then we'll write a damn check to pay for it.  When I decide my sons need something, the price tag may give me pause, but I spend the money because the money is the least important thing.

So when I announce I am angry and I'm not going to take any more, I'm only talking in small part about the money.  I do want to get rid of Minnis and Scott so we can have a decent set of leaders in the House and properly fund our schools.  But I want people to drop their sick fixation on money -- I've lived most of my life about 5% about the poverty line, so I know what the lack of money can mean.  I want our focus to move to education itself.  Politicians who insist on talking about money as the alpha and omega of government have got to go -- especially those who use money as an excuse to defund liberal programs they hate, programs like education and Medicare and the EPA.

If we care about education, we'll set aside the money issues.  We'll focus instead on what really matters: the kids, the teachers, the curriculum, the outcomes.  We'll focus on education, not a stinking budget.  Jesus said, in one of his many treatises on democratic theory, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  What do we treasure, and what does that say about our hearts -- our humanity?  Do we treasure the education we give our children, or do we value what it takes from our wallets?

Comments

  • Gordie (unverified)
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    As progressives, the moment we let any debate become about money, we have lost.

    With all due respect, T.A., anybody truly worth his/her political salt ought to be able to debate political issues on a wide range of fronts, including the resources necessary to make worthy goals happen. You use the term budget but want to ignore one of the key resources we budget?

    If you just want to talk about educational goals, great...that's certainly a subject that needs discussion. If you include the term "school budget" within the discussion, be prepared to talk money. The only time progressives lose when the discussion becomes about money is when progressives aren't as effective at justifying viewpoints fiscally as well as socially.

    Don't hide from a weakness, address and conquer it. That would really help when trying to convince a tax-shy electorate.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    T.A.,

    First of all, thank you for the subject. I think it is a noble effort on your part, but not realistic.

    You say, "If we care about education, we'll set aside the money issues."

    I can imagine the looks from the the finance department clerks (at each of my daughter's colleges) as I approached the front of the line with an empty checkbook and told them, "If we care about education, we'll set aside the money issues".

    That is the problem. Education is mostly about education, but equally important, it is about the business of education. For the last twenty years this state has gone to sleep about the business of education. We are now paying a terrible price.

    I can't imagine the response at the negotiating table if the first opening statement from the school board is, "If we care about education, we'll set aside the money issue".

    I do agree that the focus should be on education, but there is a relationship between academic results and the allocation of revenue. There is not a relationship between academic results and the quantity of revenue. Oregon has done a very poor job of allocating revenue and the students of Oregon are the ones suffering.

    We need 5,000 more K-3 teachers in Oregon. We need full school years (and days) and complete programs. This doesn't happen from wishful thinking, it happens with sound business decisions. We have special interests in this state that dictate the business decisions. They would attempt to shut down our school system if they were told that Oregon K-12 employees were to be ranked 10th (or 15th or 20th) in individual compensation, rather than 8th. We have an Oregon school following one of the most inefficient business models available, and we are all paying the price.

    You ask, "Do we treasure the education we give our children, or do we value what it takes from our wallets?"

    I ask, "Do we treasure the education we give our children, or are we concerned that we have among the highest individually compensated K-12 employees in the U.S.?" I would rather have 5,000 additional teachers, complete school years and complete programs. And hopefully, then have a graduation rate above Oregon's dismal 32nd ranking.

    Again, thank you for your sincere comments.

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)
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    T.A. - I couldn't agree more. It's not about the money.

    It's about the failure to focus on the basics with proven approaches to learning like phonics and rote and boring memorization of multiplication tables. It's about always trying to re-invent the wheel with failed initiatives like whole language, fuzzy math, and the CIM/CAM. It's about the failure to enforce discipline in the classroom and respect for teachers. It's about the focus on fluff like self-esteem and cultural diversity. It's about the failure to assign homework because it's too much work to correct. It's about the emphasis on group projects to supposedly teach teamwork rather than individual responsibility. It's about grade inflation to lull the students and parents into a false sense of accomplishment.

    You're right. It's not about the money.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    It's about the money.

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    During the prolonged and bitter School District 509J contract negotiations, I rather got the impression that money issues were involved. Still, we might agree that education is about many things. You say, " I do want to get rid of Minnis and Scott so we can have a decent set of leaders in the House and properly fund our schools." It is difficult to address school funding and yet disdain a discussion that includes money.

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    actually, marvin, money was just the point of contention. the real issue was education and how not to let the money issues get in the way. that's why the teachers union and the school board subjected the process to mediation -- neither side wanted to "win", they just wanted a good outcome. they knew if it became a battle over the cash, the schools would lose. they found a way to get past the money issue so that everyone could return to what they cared about: providing good schools with great teachers.

    that's the entire point: if money is what it's all about, we're toast. a person has to make that choice: do i care about money more or [your favorite issue] more? choosing to relegate money's role allows you the freedom to seek creative solutions that are not beholden to a budget. tom's statement "it's about the money" is the ultimate capitulation. and while i disagree with virtually everyone one of bill's assessments, at least he's not bowing down before mammon.

  • howard (unverified)
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    Money should not be the primary focus of public education discussions. But it is.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    The most basic point of all is that people don't care that much about education unless it is for their own benefit. Otherwise, they are not about to pony up the money required to educate children other then their own. That is why they passed the buck to the suckers falling for the lottery and other forms of gambling. It also explains why some people shout about having a tax to stick to tourists from other states to pay for Oregon schools. Schools in Oregon are the responsibility of Oregonians. To pass the buck to other states is squalid and contemptible. This attitude about not facing up to their responsibility to see that the younger generations get as good an education as they did is a factor in many of the arguments about money being wasted in schools and teachers being overpaid.

    Have you seen that Bank of America commercial with a young woman wanting free checking and other services she didn't want to pay for? Every time I see that I can't help but think she must be from Oregon. Wants everything for free but too cheap to pay for any of it.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Bill, Could you be more specific? Are you suggesting higher taxes? A different approach to taxation for education? Continuing the present allocation of expenditures?

    Oregon has historically funded education very well. In "per student expenditures", Oregon has been above the national averages almost every year since 1990, only dropping below during this latest recession. Do you support the high level of individual compensation for Oregon K-12 employees? If so, why?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Bailie:

    I'm suggesting that we first face up to the fact that adults have a responsibility to the state and the younger generation to provide a good education to all that would benefit from one. As I indicated above, too many people are trying to dodge that responsibility. Until a majority of Oregonians establish a sense of citizenship that includes responsibilities to future generations it is highly unlikely that there will be an agreement on financing. People denying their responsibility will tailor their arguments anyway they can to avoid paying their fair share.

    As for "the high level of individual compensation for Oregon K-12 employees" this argument is misleading. Some teachers are overpaid and some underpaid for what they do. From what I have seen and been told by former teachers that I know and respect we need remedial training for some present teachers and at least heartfelt expressions of gratitude for others who certainly are not overpaid. Lumping all teachers into good, bad, or overpaid is a sign of sloppy thinking.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Bill, So you would probably agree that the existing union employment model for much of Oregon K-12 education is a disservice to Oregon (primarily students)? The existing model is primarily based on longevity and not performance.

    I also guess, that you feel that compensation should correlate with performance?

    You say, "I'm suggesting that we first face up to the fact that adults have a responsibility to the state and the younger generation to provide a good education to all that would benefit from one."

    Don't you feel that Oregon has done very well in facing the responsibility? In almost all years since 1990, we (Oregonians) have financed K-12 education above the U.S. average. And have expended more per student than Washington, in every year since 1990. So I guess I don't understand the direction of your comment in this regard.

    You say, "Some teachers are overpaid and some underpaid for what they do." I agree.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Bailie:

    Re your: "So you would probably agree that the existing union employment model for much of Oregon K-12 education is a disservice to Oregon (primarily students)? The existing model is primarily based on longevity and not performance." No, I don't agree. There are no doubt flaws in education unions as there are in any organization made up of people, but I prefer to see entities as a whole and not condemn one or the other because of imperfections and ignore points for which they deserve credit. Increasing pay along with experience is a good idea in principle, but I agree with you that it should also require improved performance. Unions work well when they are partners with their employers. Unfortunately, too many Oregonians (employers) are inherently hostile to unions, thus creating confrontations that do no one any good.

    For the record I am pro-union in principle. I'm also well aware of the history of unions, some of which were led by truly heroic figures that have benefited this nation while others have been led by the worst. Consequently, unions much be judged on an individual basis, not placed in a pro- or anti- category according to one's personal and uninformed bias.

    On paying for education you say that Oregon's contributions to education were above the national average. Two interpretations can be derived from this. One is that Oregon was better than the national average. The other is that the average was worse than Oregon. A case can be made for the latter intepretation being more valid when we consider the stories of teachers having to buy school supplies with personal funds; old, out-of-date textbooks; cuts to the number of school teachers resulting in excessively large class sizes for remaining teachers; reduced school days during the year; pay-to-play sports; elimination of arts classes; etc.

    If you want to find waste in education, I suspect you will have more success looking at school boards. To cite one example, many have a proclivity for building single-story buildings despite the fact that multi-story buildings are much less expensive to build and maintain.

    With regard to education and teachers there are two points to consider. Oregonians need to recognize the importance of a good education for all young people and be prepared to support (including paying taxes for) a system that will provide such an education. The teaching profession and their unions need to recognize that teachers must at a minimum be competent and worth their salaries. If teachers fail then they need to have remedial training or find other employment.

    Several months ago I watched a C-Span program (I believe on Book TV) about a young woman who was teaching inner city kids in the Los Angeles area. She turned her students round from apathetic to eager to learn through her writing classes. I don't know what she was paid, but it was probably the going union rate. In her case she was grossly underpaid.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Bill, Thanks for your ideas. You say, "Oregonians need to recognize the importance of a good education for all young people and be prepared to support (including paying taxes for) a system that will provide such an education."

    We are in agreement, and as I have pointed out, Oregonians have historically supported education very well (especially for a relatively "poor" state). The question is, "How much is enough?". I get the impression from you, that we should just keep directing more money at a broken business model. Contrarily, I also feel that you would expect some correlation, between individual compensation of K-12 employees and academic results. The Oregon situation is one of the best examples, that there is not the correlation that most would desire or expect. There are so many examples of states which individually compensate K-12 employees considerable less than Oregon, but have much greater academic success. Shouldn't the end product (academic success) be the guiding principle, and not maintaining the level of income among the highest compensated K-12 employees in the U.S.? Oregon's level of individual K-12 compensation is about $500 million above the 25th ranking state in compensation now, yet we have very average academic results, including poor graduation rates (32nd). The average school district budget is 85% for human resources.

    1) How much do you feel is necessary for Oregon to finance K-12. What influence will this expenditure have on the other Oregon public sectors (health,OSP etc.)?

    2) Where specifically does Oregon to obtain the revenue? How much would you anticipate from each source?

    3) Would you suggest that the voters in Oregon will vote for a tax increase?

    4) What would a tax increase do to our existing fragile economic situation in Oregon? Considering that we have led the nation in unemployment for the last five year period. And, our "per capita income" has dropped from 26th in 1999 to 36th in 2004.

    5) Do you feel a tax increase would bring more businesses to Oregon?

    6) Realistically, would a tax increase have a chance to pass, given what everyone knows about PERS and high total compensation in the public sector?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Bailie:

    Please note my primary point is to get the people and the education establishment of Oregon to agree on the importance of education and to agree to step up to the plate to do whatever (not only paying taxes) is necessary. After that we can get people more qualified than I to address your valid questions about financing which is only one aspect that needs to be addressed. There are other options that need to be discussed. For instance, should we continue to force disinterested kids through the conventional junior and senior years in high schools? Should we not consider the German model that has students work part-time in apprenticeship programs in business and industry while they continue with some part-time academic work that they recognise as relevant to possible future careers?

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie asks bill:

    "Could you be more specific? Are you suggesting higher taxes? A different approach to taxation for education? Continuing the present allocation of expenditures?"

    How about taking the state out of the business of funding K-12 education. Let's return to the state we were in pre-1990, with local control of education expenditures, local control of the curricular process (subject to some state minimum standards). The moment we turned the financing of education over to the state, K-12 education went into the toilet. It doesn't matter how much money you throw at education statewide, because the equalization formulae don't necessarily put the money where it's needed. Get rid of Measure 5 and then we can talk about education funding. There's nothing productive that can come of statewide education funding under the present circumstances.

  • Sick of you (unverified)
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    "Get rid of Measure 5 and then we can talk"

    What a stuck in the mud worthless line of BS.

    That kind of thinking has us where we are, stuck.

    We spend more than Washington and are heading in opposite directions.

    Wake up fools!

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    sick of you misunderstands completely with his blather by remarking:

    "What a stuck in the mud worthless line of BS.

    That kind of thinking has us where we are, stuck.

    We spend more than Washington and are heading in opposite directions.

    Wake up fools!"

    You're missing the point, idiot. It isn't about how much the STATE spends on education. Education needs to be local and funded locally. Each community should be able to decide how much (or how little) it wants to spend on education. Oregon's K-12 education went into the toilet the minute the Oregon Legislature got involved in the major funding decisions. Return local control for public schools back to the local public and then we can talk about what level of funding is appropriate.

    It doesn't matter what Washington spends on schools.

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    Bailie

    As I've posted before, I have no respect for your claim to want to reform the schools when you adamantly refuse to consider the regional tax or any other tax.

    Without an immediate infusion of funds, the current generation of students will suffer severely and PPS is in danger of spinning downwards on an unrecoverable spiral of middle class flight. Once the middle class departs from urban schools, they never return.

    End of unionization, new compensation schemes, PERS reform, none of this will happen in the next 12 months. But that is precisely when the financial crisis arrives.

    You want financial reforms? Support the tax as an unpleasant but necessary answer to our immediate financial crisis, and then run for office as a reformer.

    All you do here is feeding the fire of the anti tax advocates.

  • LT (unverified)
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    What we need in order to have this be an intelligent conversation is to put Bailie in a room with working adults who were public school students in the 1990s. Any high school grad from the late 1990s is entitled to an opinion on what happened to the schools they attended.

    Anyone remember some years ago when OPB had a town hall meeting where the high school students were invited to a day on the NIKE <?> campus? This was a show where the students were shown as they debated issues like school funding and then each of the small groups was allowed to ask questions of famous adults, from politicians to school officials to Bill Sizemore. One young woman asked Sizemore "Have you been to our schools, have you seen the overcrowding?". The response was Sizemore saying he had given a speech at a school or some other non-responsive answer--the students wanted to know if he had spent time observing in a classroom.

    Young people do vote and get involved (Bus Project a leader in that field) but some would like "the voters have spoken" to mean only those who were old enough to have voted on Measure 5 in 1990. Except that anyone who turns 18 and registers to vote has the same right to vote as someone who is Sizemore's age or McIntire's age.

    And if those young people think teachers are overpaid, have too many benefits, that PERS should be scrapped, etc. they have the right to say so and to support candidates who support those ideas.

    BUT, they as individuals also have the right to say "Having been in public school in the 1990s, I think teachers work darn hard and if anything are underpaid". And if that is what they believe, someone named Bailie is not going to change their minds simply by posting on a blog. Some of these folks are the children of public employees, and are not likely to buy into the idea that all public employees are lazy and overpaid and if only public employee unions did not exist..........

  • sicker of you (unverified)
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    mrfearless47 wrote, "Oregon's K-12 education went into the toilet the minute the Oregon Legislature got involved in the major funding decisions. It doesn't matter what Washington spends on schools."

    Oregon K-12 went into the toilet when CIM-CAM reform was implemented. In fact the real decline or narrowing of our edge above the national average appeared as soon as one would expect a classroom distraction and wasting of resources to take.

    During the 90's Oregon schools had plenty of money and wasted it. I know that at the time there was never enough. But those whining about that soon became revisionists when they looked back from the 00's making the pitch that we had too much money in the 90's and not enough in recession. It was the whole unstable play.

    During the 90's spending grew to exceed Washington spending by some 1300.00/student. It's now 225.00 and our school system cannot seem to wean itself from the higher level because of the spending structure and people and thinking like you and yours.

    Yes, that matters.

    You just want to ignore it (the spending comparison) and both state student performance trends because you wallow in the more money will fix things muck.

    No, it won't. It would be spent exactly the way it is now with no shift or change what so ever.

    You are wrong and part of the perpetual problem.

    You and yours must be ignored and removed from policy making or we will be watching our student performance fall below the national average within a few short years while watching WA head in the opposite direction while spending less money.

    Surrender. You are ruining our public school system with this ridiculous broken record.

    Go back and read the previous 100 education blogs.

    It should make you sick too my friends.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Paul, You say, "End of unionization, new compensation schemes, PERS reform, none of this will happen in the next 12 months. But that is precisely when the financial crisis arrives."

    First of all I don't think it will be possible to end unionization. Do our collective bargaining laws need adjusted? Yes.

    Paul, with due respect, why haven't the changes you suggest taken place during the three years the temporary income tax was/is in effect? The only thing that happened was more teachers laid off, shortened school years, cut programs, closed schools and other problems. Academic results remain very average. None of the above would have to have happened, if individual compensation weren't as high as it is. There is no pressure to hold compensation to reasonable levels, if there is the steady increasing supply of revenue. That is why the unions outspent the opposition more than $10 to $1 in Measures 28 and 30. I don't know how much clearer the people in this state can be about more taxes. It is very obvious that the unions will not back off demands for ever increasing compensation, while Oregon's ability to pay has dropped significantly in the last six years.

    Everyone just seems to gloss over our drop in "per capita income". This is a normally very slow moving measurement for a state. We dropped from 26th in 1999 to 36th in 2004. This represents $Billions of loss in affluence, in relation to other states. We have also led all states in unemployment during the last five year period. At the same time, individual compensation for K-12 employees was growing very fast, in the opposite direction. The economic relationship of these effects is manifesting into the dilemmas we are presently experiencing.

    This is not much different than what has taken place in the private sector in the airline industry, the steel industry, the automotive industry and others. Rightly or wrongly, there will not be pressure to reform compensation schedules until the revenue dries up. Unfortunately, the students and people of Oregon are paying the price for this mismanagement of revenue. What is being done about it, absolutely nothing. Apparently, the decision makers on both sides of this situation are willing to just let the conditions run their course. It should be repulsive to anyone truly interested "in the children".

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless,

    You say, "How about taking the state out of the business of funding K-12 education."

    Interesting thought, but I would think if Measure 5 were put up to a vote again, it would pass with a larger margin the it did in 1990.

    The funding coming from the state has not been the problem. As far as school district control of the funding, I have heard it successfully discussed from both directions. As previously noted, Oregon has funded K-12 education higher than the adjacent states (California, Washington, Idaho and Nevada in every year since Measure 5 was passed. Simply put, the amount of revenue is not the problem. The allocation of revenue for Oregon K-12 has been a disaster.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Bill,

    You suggest, "There are other options that need to be discussed. For instance, should we continue to force disinterested kids through the conventional junior and senior years in high schools? Should we not consider the German model that has students work part-time in apprenticeship programs in business and industry while they continue with some part-time academic work that they recognize as relevant to possible future careers?"

    I really appreciate your suggestions, or representation of what K-12 in Oregon should be trying. I agree, but I have sat in so many discussions (in the last 30 years) similar to what you suggest and nothing has been done. Options as you suggest can be argued indefinitely from both directions to stalemates. I don't think the education model is necessarily faulty (but it can always be improved).

    I do believe that Oregon has made a significant mistake in the last 20 years by choosing high individual compensation and few teachers, rather than considerably more teachers and much smaller class sizes, especially K-3. Every piece of information that I have been able to obtain, reinforces this conclusion.

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    "actually, marvin, money was just the point of contention. the real issue was education and how not to let the money issues get in the way." We both live in Benton County, and followed the same contract negotiations. I assure you that we have very different views of the negotiations process. Did I misread all those letters that teachers wrote to the Corvallis Gazette-Times telling of their anger and concern about cuts to their retirement benefits? It sure sounded to me as if money was the point of contention.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Lt,

    You say, "What we need in order to have this be an intelligent conversation is to put Bailie in a room with working adults who were public school students in the 1990s."

    LT, I have been in discussion rooms as you suggest many, many times. I have spent considerable time in the classrooms. I have hired countless numbers of high school grads and college grads and have discussed this topic extensively with them through the years. I have two immediate members of my family working on a daily basis in the classrooms and with the kids. I have several teachers in my extended family. My three children were in public schools during the 1990s. They did very well in our public schools and all graduated from very good universities in 4 years or less. I have not formed my conclusions in a vacuum. I also have tried to keep politics totally away from my conclusions. I have never been even remotely associated with a special interest group.

    I am just very interested in this subject and have studied it extensively for the last three years. I thank you for your interest.

  • howard (unverified)
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    mrfearless47 wrote: "Oregon's K-12 education went into the toilet the minute the Oregon Legislature got involved in the major funding decisions. Return local control for public schools back to the local public and then we can talk about what level of funding is appropriate."

    Paul weote: "Without an immediate infusion of funds, the current generation of students will suffer severely and PPS(Portland Public School District 1J) is in danger of spinning downwards on an unrecoverable spiral of middle class flight. Once the middle class departs from urban schools, they never return."

    For the most part, public K-12 districts around Oregon are financially sound and performing well. Of 198 Oregon districts, 138 of them closed the 2003-2004 school year with reserves amounting to 20% or more of their general fund budgets. The larger districts such as Portland have some well performing high schools as well as the elementary and middle schools that funnel students to them. I am unaware of any other Oregon public school districts that can be described as "in the toilet."

    The current "Funding Crisis" centers on Portland District 1J which is a budgetary basket case, mainly because of an inflexible and costly collective bargaining agreement exacerbated by numerous temporary funding fixes since 1996 facilitated by city and county politicians. And in the most recent legislative session there were two attempts to extend Portland's expiring "local option" operating levy rather than put it on the ballot for a vote of the people.

    I hope the Chalkboard Project is successful in its efforts to define the problems of public education and proceeds with an absence of imperatives as to which stakeholders, aside from parents, taxpayers and students, MUST be involved in the solution.

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    bailie,

    perhaps a lack of political leadership? i went to a number of candidate forums for the school board elections and saw few if none of the issues you raised being discussed.

    so step up to the plate. but if you want me to starve the beast, you've lost me. your kids graduated. i have three in school right now.

    you tell me how you would have reacted 10 years ago if another bailie was advocating class sizes of 50, slashing arts music and all interscholastic sports, all in the name of some financial reform in an undefined future.

    be honest: would you have said "you know, sacrificing my child's high school education is worth it"?

  • Bailie (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Paul, I don't understand your question. "you tell me how you would have reacted 10 years ago if another bailie was advocating class sizes of 50, slashing arts music and all interscholastic sports, all in the name of some financial reform in an undefined future."

    You obviously have read my conclusions and suggestions, none would be as you suggest above, so I don't understand. Basically,your question describes our present direction, which started between 10 and 20 years ago.

    You are exaggerating my suggested solution. You say, "if you want me to starve the beast, you've lost me." I have never suggested the drastic solution you describe. It isn't "starving the beast", to have K-12 compensation lower than it is now. I am suggesting 5,000 additional K-12 employees (K-3) at a lower individual compensation rate, is preferable to our present situation. I am also suggesting that this should take place over an extended time period for up to 10 years.

    You ask, "be honest: would you have said "you know, sacrificing my child's high school education is worth it"?

    I have been in the situation you describe. I am also not considering my personal situation, but what is in the best interest of Oregon K-12 for the long term.

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