Pathetic, Shameful: Oregon School Funding

T.A. Barnhart

Some cliches are true.  Being a parent is the hardest job in the world.  Most of what we do, we're making up as we go along.  We make it up based on what we've learned in life, the advice we get from experts, and, worst of all, the way we ourselves were raised.  Ok, maybe that last part should be "best of all," but that depends on how you were raised.  If your parents divorced and emotionally distanced themselves from you by the time you were 12, then the parenting skills you learned in your broken family are likely not to be so good.  You can learn better ways, of course, and many parents do.  Sadly, many just repeat their parents' mistakes and make new and better ones of their own.  The job of being a parent belongs to mere human beings, and as much as we may love our kids, having hope and love as your best parental tools is shaky ground for success.

Being a teenager in modern American society is scarcely any easier.  We place huge demands on our kids, so many things they are supposed to do and learn and accomplish.  It's a lot of pressure, and yet the adults who are responsible for preparing children for adulthood -- parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, etc -- tend to be varying levels of imperfect as role models.  We have no rites of passage in our society, not the kind that prove to the child and the community that this boy or girl is now an adult.  We slide our kids from childhood to adulthood erratically.  We expect them to turn 18 and suddenly be ready for the whole world, including to sit in a Humvee in Iraq and be blown to hell.

Parents, most of us, try to do our best.  We take it that day-at-a-time, trying to be smart, or not be stupid, as we're tap-dancing through the landmines.  Few of us want to relinquish the job, no matter how terrifying or difficult; we love the little things, after all, and we know that whatever mistakes we make in raising them, they'll probably love us, too.  Hell, our parents screwed us up but we still love them.  We just try to do a bit better, and hope our kids do better when it's their turn. 

We don't ask for a lot of help, most of us.  We need a friend or family member to help now and then, and we'd like a good baby sitter and a decent dentist, and if we can arrange carpooling now and then, that's cool, too.  We're glad to take on the responsibility of being parents; we just want a little help, now and then.  And we ask that our society not make raising our kids any more difficult than it already is.

This evening, my son, a junior in high school, called from his mom's to tell me he'd been accepted for WIBC.  That's the Western Invitational Band Clinic: "Invitational" as in "honor band."  He auditioned and made it, and I couldn't be happier.  Except, yes I could; I could be a lot happier.  I had a talk with his Chemistry teacher today, and that left me a long way from happy.  So when we talked about WIBC, it went from "Congratulations" to "...but there are conditions" and that did not make either of us happy.  It was one of those parent-child discussions that leaves everyone miserable.  And as a parent whose son is with his mom most nights, it left me feeling horribly guilty and heart-broken.

So a few minutes after the phone call, I drove across town to give my son a hug and tell him I am proud of him and that I love him.  I drove across town -- I have missed approximately 70% of my son's childhood.  And now I find myself in a position where I can't sit and talk with him about school but have to do it over the phone -- and then drive 5 miles to do the loving part.  And while I accept responsibility for being a divorced parent, I find myself very, very angry at the state I live in for making things harder than they should be.

Corvallis High School is brand new; the Chemistry room has wonderful seating for 32 kids.  There are 37 kids in the class.  The teacher, a dedicated and caring man who is trying to find innovative ways to instill an appreciation of science in his students, has over 220 kids assigned to him.  My son keeps his silence resolutely.  Only because I and his mother got involved with the teacher were we able to do something about the situation.  The poor teacher simply has no time to take care of his charges properly.  He's teaching extra sessions after school to help prep kids for their tests; that's extraordinary effort.  But how was he to know my son simply paid no attention to the fact that they have a test tomorrow?

It's pathetic, it's shameful that high school chemistry classes can only meet 3 days a week.  It's pathetic, it's shameful that my son has to skip a full year between Spanish 1 and 2.  It's pathetic, it's shameful that AP History class is a mad dash until the national exam in May with no hope of actually learning the lessons of history, just the dates.  There is little about our schools in Oregon that is not pathetic and shameful, apart from the teachers, the staff, the administrators, the students, and the parents.

Let's see.  That leaves -- the governor, the Legislature, and the voters.  They are the ones who are pathetic and shameful.  My son is a good kid trying hard to be a good student, and his mother and I are good parents, and his teachers are excellent -- and all of us are simply being crushed in a system that is pathetically, shamefully inadequate for one pathetic, shameful reason: Money.

Like I said, I don't want a lot from others.  I want the teachers to do their job, and they do.  I want a job that pays me well enough to care for my son, and I have that (thanks to a California emigree).  What I don't want is the task of education my child to be unnecessarily difficult -- or impossible.  But those who have responsibility for providing the necessary resources have done just that.  They have made a quality K-12 education in Oregon exceedingly difficult to achieve.  Soon it will be impossible.

I'm sick of everyone's excuses.  I know things are tough; it's been a few years since I had any health care, and I may have an income but there are no benefits.  But to not fund our schools properly is shameful beyond excuse.  To allow children to be hungry, to let people die of preventable disease, to let senior citizens waste away in inferior homes; these are all shameful beyond excuse.  But I'm a parent, and in the best new school building in the state -- paid for voluntarily by Corvallis citizens -- we do not have the money for a proper school year or enough teachers.  I'm sick of the excuses.  I don't know exactly what my next step is, but it will involve public anger, and it will force those in responsibility to either do what they should or get the hell out of Dodge.

I love my son, and I'll be damned if I'm going to put up with this any more.  He deserves better.

Comments

  • theanalyst (unverified)
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    The mentality of not adequately funding schools has a long and noble tradition in Oregon. I went to public school in Salem around 40 years ago. Every time there was a school budget election a fellow named Cleo Hicks would take out giant, full-page red and black ads in the local newspaper denouncing the great waste of funds in the school budget.

    I remember that there were some people, even friends of my parents, who always voted against the school budget, no matter what, even as they always drove late-model Cadillacs.

    This was back when my grade school had no gymnasium, the playground was gravel, there were no computers, no air conditioning, few special programs, and teachers weren't paid all that much. In high school there were so many of us crammed in, around two thousand, that we had split school shifts to accomodate all the students. Nonetheless, in the mind of Cleo Hicks, schools were squandering money. Many voters agreed with him, and the school budget would rarely pass on the first vote.

    So in Oregon this whole opposition to public school funding is nothing new. We could house schools in unheated, abandoned buildings and pay teachers minimum wage, and people would still complain about how expensive it was. If you think that "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" is going to change anything, well, good luck.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    What most people dont realize, is that the education budget has actually gone up every cycle since the early 90s. I just doesnt go up as much as people wanted, so its a "shortfall" or a "reduction". (The latter being an outright lie.) I just wish the people in charge of the money would spend it better. At the current rate of spending, there should be no reason our schools are in the shape they are in now. Ask your local district for the "all funds" budget amount, then divide by the number of students in the district. Its a lot higher than you might expect.

    Then you have little things like keeping kids in ESL longer than needed, because they get an additional $1500 per kid, as long as that kid is in the ESL program. I also know a lady who was a principal of a NE Portland school several years back, and her school was closed. There were not any equal positions available for her in the district, so they made her a kindergarten teacher at another school. At the same salary of course. Nearly $100k, plus benefits. But hey, thats part of her agreement with the district.

    And this year, I was pretty surprised when my daughter (in middle school) brought home a list of stuff she was supposed to bring the first day, and included on the list was a ream of copy paper. Next year I expect a toner cartridge to be on there, or hey, maybe even toilet paper for the teachers lounge.

  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)
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    T.A.

    You are just a very little angry man, aren't you?

    Do me a favor, when you come up with a solution more complex then, "Just do the right thing," feel free to post again.

    Otherwise, just shut up!

  • BEcky (unverified)
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    I, for one, am so darned confused by this whole school funding debate that I want to scream. If you look at the per student costs, they seem inordinately high, but I see cuts in my kids' classrooms. I know there are very high costs associated with educating special needs students. My parents put me in private Christian schools my entire educational life and my kids definitely have it better in today's public schools than I ever did, but not as good as I hear kids back in my day had it. Sometimes I'm pleased at how much they're learning, and other times I wonder why they're not learning more. When you're raising kids, it's awfully hard to vote for a tax increase because you can't afford it, even though you want the best for your kids. But when you don't have kids, it's hard to vote for a tax increase to educate someone else's kids. I'm not surprised this debate is ongoing. I just wish we could get factual information, without the union bias or the anti-tax bias getting in the way. I'm sure our legislators probably feel the same way. Perhaps if we took a look at expenditures and asked ourselves on each item whether it was more important than educating our children, we might be able to find ways to shift money from so-called "pork" to the classroom. On the other hand, show us why it's needed. Really, what is going on? Someone who isn't politically biased (is there such a person) would do Oregon a real favor by writing an in-dept paper in language the everyday person could understand explaining what is going on with school funding, goring whatever ox needs to be gored, so we can start making good decisions.

  • Kent (unverified)
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    theanalyst is correct to a certain extent. But I think there's really something different now. A hostility to the public infrastructure that didn't used to exist as much. School funding has always been a battle in Oregon. I grew up in North Eugene in the 70s and remember some of those battles. But North Eugene was a decent high school back then, uncrowded, with adequate funding and a wealth of advanced offerings. Yes we had a gravel track and no lights on the football practice fields and no pool. But it was a decent place. I've talked to fellow alumni who still live in the area and who's kids now go there and they are just heartbroke that their kids are getting less of an education today than we did in the 70s and early 80s. I expect long-time Oregonians can tell similar stories in just about any school system in the state outside of the really wealthy new suburban districts around Portland which still seem to be doing OK. My Dad went to Amity HS in the 50s and thinks he had more options back then than students do today.

    My wife and I are currently living near Waco Texas while she finishes her residency and then looking to move back to the Willamette Valley. But this school situation is a major horror. Our daughter's elementary school here in suburban Waco is frankly better equipped and better funded than the schools in any of the neighborhoods we are looking at in Salem and Portland. They have all-day Pre-K and all-day Kindergarten here. Try finding a school in Oregon with that. The class sizes in the elementary schools are around 15. And her elementary school has an art lab, a computer lab, a gorgeous library, and a music lab, each with full time staff. How many small elementary schools in Oregon have both art and music labs with full time teachers in each?

    Oregonians should be absolutely ashamed and embarrased about the fact that Texas has better schools. That's right, Texas. Connecticut or Wisconsin would be easier to take. But when Texas is beating Oregon in education you know something is wrong.

  • (Show?)

    T.A. You wrote from your heart. You want what all parents want, the best for their children. Other readers here are providing the long view of funding public schools in Oregon. Measure 5's passage back in the early 80's doomed our schools. Support your high school's Foundation. That is where money is raised on the side to buy more equipment and extra teachers...(we won't get into unequal educational opportunties based on socio-economic status here.) Ted K.is headed to a meeting to bring more businesses into Oregon this weekend. More businesses, more employees, more taxes, better schools.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    The problem of funding for Oregon K-12 is not the amount, but how the amount is allocated.

    Following the passage of Measure 5, Oregon has supported education very well. In the decade of the 1990s, Oregon's "Expenditures per student", were greater than California, Washington, Idaho and the U.S. average in every year, by a considerable amount with the exception of 1996-7 we were even with the national average.

    For whatever reasons, the State of Oregon has chosen a very highly compensated K-12 workforce, above a well compensated (in the top half of states) workforce. There are only 12 states which have higher K-12 "teacher salaries" than Oregon (NEA, 2005)(and every other piece of data I have found). In addition, Oregon has the #1 rated benefits package in the U.S. (Chalkboard, 2005), much of which is indexed to the high salaries. With salaries and benefits combined, Oregon K-12 employees are the 8th highest compensated in the U.S.(Chalkboard Project 2005,ECONorthwest 2005)) This would not be considered as much of a problem if Oregon were an affluent state. The adverse effect is created from Oregon's 36th place ranking in "Per Capita Income" (http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/ARTICLES/2005/04April/SPI.pdf , pg 78). This ranking has steadily deteriorated from the a 26th ranking in 1999. Simply, the very high "total compensation" per K-12 employee, has become a handicap for the expansion of K-12 education in Oregon. The significance can be quantified to $300 to $800 million per year additional costs, when compared to similar states ( Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire and others). All of these states compare very favorably to Oregon in K-12 academic achievement, including graduation rates and attendance rates. The $300-800 million difference per year, would translate into about 5,000-7,000 additional teachers, complete programs and school years.

    Kent, to your point. If Oregon compensated K-12 employees equal to Texas (and I'm not suggesting we should), we could hire 10,000 more teachers, have complete school years and programs. That is the complete answer to the dilemma you present.

    Oregon has the 4th highest student/teacher ratio in the U.S. It is only because we can't afford more teachers andvery high individual compensation.

  • Kent (unverified)
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    Kent, to your point. If Oregon compensated K-12 employees equal to Texas (and I'm not suggesting we should), we could hire 10,000 more teachers, have complete school years and programs. That is the complete answer to the dilemma you present.

    The scary thing? Teachers are fleeing Oklahoma for Texas in droves for the $10-20 grand increase in salaries they get by moving across the border. Imagine what Oklahoma teachers must make.

    Honestly though, it isn't just teacher salaries. It's the infrastructure too. Some of the wealthy suburban school districts in Texas have schools that make even Lake Oswego's facilities look bad.

  • keyfur (unverified)
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    Jon says: What most people dont realize, is that the education budget has actually gone up every cycle since the early 90s.

    yes, the basic amount of funding does go up. there are more dollars in the state schools budget every year. but what you don't realize is that the price of things goes up as well. inflation is just as much of a problem for schools as for you and me. if prices rise more than the budget, then that means less can be bought with the budget. if that is not a "reduction" or "shortfall" i wonder what you would consider it. and that is exactly the situation over the last 5 years in oregon. using constant dollars, the schools budget has gone down 3% over that time. school funding in oregon is shameful!

  • William Neuhauser (unverified)
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    For those confused about school funding, or wondering what can be done., I recommend Chalkboard Project - a non-ideological group (other than supporting public education). See in particular:

    Oregon spends very near the national average per pupil. Our schools are not what many of us grew up with ... now with signficant non-English speaking, and disabled kids which cost a lot more to educate (some up to $30,000/year and the school can't "opt out") and administer. The legislature does a poor job of funding (irrespective of amount!), but has no control over the education which is at a local level district level, so everything they do to try and get information or monitor or increase control adds only administrative costs to collect data and generate reports without adding more teachers or better teachers or changing class size or adding facilities.

    Most school expenses are people costs, so naturally school is more expensive each year. In the 1990s the number of special instruction kids and costs have accelerated.

    In any large human-based system you will find flaws and inefficiences, but honestly they don't appear to be worse in Oregon than anywhere else, so the odd personal anecdotes aside, there seem to be only a few areas of "efficiencies" left after years of working at it. Some recommendations are to be found at: K-12 Action Plan

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    "But to not fund our schools properly is shameful beyond excuse." T.A Barnhart has a valid point. An equally valid question is "what is proper?" Oregon has had a real, inflation adjusted, increase in per-student funding over a fifteen year duration. Oregon teacher pay and benefits are superb, and numerous references verify that statement. Mr. Barnhart refers to the great new Corvallis school building. True, but that $86,000,000.00 cost left local taxpayers with long term debt repayments that diminish enthusiasm for new tax levies. This is a highly liberal, strongly pro-education community. For it to reject a tax levy, as it did, merits serious self-examination on the part of education leaders. One factor statewide is that beginning with 1990, our state ranking for per capita income fell from 25th place nationally to 36th place in 2004. Given the claimed shortage of funding, one would expect numerous studies devoted solely to creating the world's single most cost effective education system. Where is the scholarship?

  • (Show?)

    Thanks, T.A., for your comments. That America--and Oregon--do not support the most vulnerable in our society is, for me, a sad fact that I can't figure out how to change. Whether it is our kids, the elderly, the mentally ill or the poor, we have become a country where those who need help don't get it--and very few people seem to care.

    I've seen the incredible job my son's kindergarten does with 25 kids in her class (including two with special needs) and no aide to help her.

    What's worst to me is that as a society, we are sure to suffer down the road for our disinvestment in public services. We'll have uneducated kids, more crime, more poverty and higher taxes in the future unless things radically change. That isn't a recipe for a successful country as far as I can see.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Kent, Using the same data collecting/analysis, the average teacher (2003-04) in: Oklahoma .... $35,061. Texas ...... 40,476. Oregon ..... 49,169. (NEA June 2005)

    There are approx. 29,000 K-12 teachers in Oregon. We are individually compensating just in individual salaries, $409 million more per year than teachers in Oklahoma. While I wouldn't want to compare our school systems, Oregon is ranked 36th in "per capita income", while Oklahoma is ranked 39th. Texas is ranked ahead of Oregon in "per capita income" at 32nd.

    Another way to show that Oregon is individually compensating K-12 teachers well above the norm, is this: No other state has a wider deviation between "Average Teacher Salaries" and "Per Capita Income", than does Oregon.

    And always keep into consideration that Oregon's benefits package is ranked the most expensive in the U.S., a full 11 percent ahead of 2nd place Wisconsin. When salaries and benefits are combined, it is clear where the funding problem exists.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    keyfur, The latest data which I have expressing your concerns is from the American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO)(Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2002, Fig. I-4, Pg. 5).

    "Inflation-Adjusted 2001-02 Average Teacher Salary Exceeds 1971-72 Level by Nearly $2,600 Nationally". In Oregon we exceeded the 1971-72 salaries by $4,312 per year. Oregon benefits have outdistanced inflation considerably more.

    You say, "and that is exactly the situation over the last 5 years in Oregon. using constant dollars, the schools budget has gone down 3% over that time. school funding in Oregon is shameful!"

    You have identified the problem perfectly. While our total K-12 expenditures have leveled in the last five years, our individual compensation for K-12 employees, has gone up considerably. And that is why we now have such large (4th largest in U.S.) class sizes and curtailed programs.

    www.aft.org/salary/2002/download/SalarySurvey02.pdf

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    This is for Winston, who has trouble seeing through the smoke.

    The solution for school funding is to make OREGON BIG BIZ pay more in revenues than our sad, little video poker players.

    Oregon's BIG BIZ loves the fact we are 46th outta 50 in total tax burden and look out Alabamee!

    Hey WInston, got a smoke?

  • scooter P (unverified)
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    Why is the school discussion always about money? Will there EVER be enough money for schools? I doubt it. Quite frankly, all this talk about school funding obscures the real point - our public schools are broken and need to be rebuilt from scratch. The system is being held hostage by the teachers unions who perpetuate their own existence rather than educate our children. I know many fine teachers who pout their lives into kids. It is the system that is broken.

    No wonder homeschooling is the number one growing educational alternative. Oh wait, the teachers unions are trying to put a stop to that too.

  • marvinlee (unverified)
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    I'm trying hard to say something not too controversial about public funding, in response to Ms. Carlson's statement that "Whether it is our kids, the elderly, the mentally ill or the poor, we have become a country where those who need help don't get it--and very few people seem to care." With respect to kids, our national education budget exceeds $800,000,000,000.00. That suggests some measure of caring on the part of many taxpayers. True, part of that amount consists of student fees, charges, and tuition. However, students are also, in some cases, taxpayers.

    Our elderly are probably the richest elderly in human history, thanks to high national income, social security, and federal health care programs. That is small comfort to those who remain poor, but safety nets exist now for citizens that never existed at the early part of our nation. Despite our imperfect present, great progress has been achieved.

    The poor are a more difficult problem. Perhaps if we had a more sophisticated vocabulary we could break the category that we now lable "the poor" into more manageable categories for discussion and possible solutions.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    William, Thank you for your references to the Chalkboard Project. There is a wealth of information available, much originating from ECONorthwest.

    You say, "In any large human-based system you will find flaws and inefficiencies, but honestly they don't appear to be worse in Oregon than anywhere else, so the odd personal anecdotes aside, there seem to be only a few areas of "efficiencies" left after years of working at it."

    The most glaring "inefficiencies" as pointed out in Oregon School Finance" (Page 3-2) is: Oregon salaries and benefits measured on a per student basis are close to the national average; Salaries and benefits measured per full-time equivalent staff member are high relative to other states." "Benefit expenditures total $17,684 per full-time staff member (2001-02), which ranked 1st nationally and is 11 percent higher than second place Wisconsin. Taken together, expenditures on the total compensation package average $60,137 per full-time employee, which ranked 8th nationally."

    These figures have been greatly enhanced since 2001-02 as NEA points out in June 2005 that there are only six states increasing at a faster pace than Oregon in "Percentage Change in Average Instructional Staff Salaries 2002-03 to 2003-04". (NEA Rankings & Estimates, 2004-2005, NEA Research June 2005, page 23).

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    No matter how you view the degraded state of education in Oregon - whether you are pro or against public education, teachers, financing, whatever - the one indisputable fact is that a deficient education system is a symptom of a seriously flawed society that is destined to become worse if the current course is not reversed. When university football teams receive better funding than colleges of education and coaches are paid many times more than university presidents and professors, it is time to ask where our priorities are.

  • Dena (unverified)
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    The North Clackamas School District has a great website that explains how school funds are spent. In our district, NC12, it cost $5.77 an hour to educate an individual student. As a half time teacher , as a parent and a taxpayer, that sounds very reasonable too me. There are so many great things that go on in public schools and we do a HORRIBLE job of putting that out there.

    Where my family resides, Happy Valley, our student population is up over 100 students at our elementary and it is beyond crowded. Because of the socioeconomics of the area, parents contribute alot of money to supplement what once would have been covered.

    I teach in a school that is the polar opposite. I am sure many of the parents would like to contribute but can't. So again, we teachers, pay out money to collect needed supplies. Poverty, situational and generational, costs more. Many of these students come in with issues and deficiencies that are better addressed as children than as adults if only because, ultimately, it will be a better use of tax dollars now than in the future.

    Jon - I don't know where you heard your story about schools retaining students in ESL programs for additional funds. I can only speak for my middle school, where 26% of the 7-8th graders and 50% 0f the 6th graders are ELL students, but we do multiple assessments to determine when they are ready to be in a mainstream classroom. I am proud that many of my honor roll students were former ELL students. Some of them as little as 2 years ago. Language acquisition is a more complex process than can be detailed in a sound bite but I would really encourage people to study it further. My parents are both children of immigrants from Europe and what it took for them to "master" English well enough to survive and provide for their families was much simpler than today's needs and economy.

    Both my husband and I grew up in the area where our children attend and we had music/pe three times a week and an art teacher. Now my children have those once a week, few concerts and no school librarian. The smallest class size is 28 and we have four portable classrooms.

    I always encourage people who believe there to be vast amounts of waste to come in to a few local schools and check it out for yourself. Try to go to different kinds of schools in different types of neighborhoods to get a good feel for the successes and challenges we face.

    While it is not the total solution, nor should it be, I am looking forward to their being a state initiative in 06 that will ask voters if builders should have to pay a systems development fee to contribute to the costs of additional development.

    I came from parents of modest means and I was provided with an excellent public financed education. It is my duty and my honor to pay that forward not only for my children but for your's and the future's as well.

    We all know Bailie's arguments and I am pretty sure many of us could speak them verbatim but I hope to move beyond that.

    As for me today, one of my day's off, I will be lesson planning and working on differentiated instruction for kids who are gifted, kids who have learning disabilties, kids whose first language isn't English, kids who had a parent hauled off to jail, last night, kids who were evicted again, kids who have ADD, kids who are depressed, kids who are abused and kids who are just great, regular kids who sometimes got read too and know the world is bigger than their block. We get 'em all in our classroom and I am richly blessed to know them. But they deserve better from us. You can't get a Nordy' s education for a Wal-Mart price.

    It reminds me of a quote by Jonathon Kozol, author of many education books, including his latest, Shame of a Nation. " I like little kids because they are always full of hope. They do not yet know that their country does not like them."

  • (Show?)

    Even assuming that Bailie's statistics are valid, I don't have any problem with Oregon having generous teacher salaries and benefits. Have you tried teaching lately? The diversity of ability levels among students is astounding and teachers are pressured to get all students to pass standardized tests. I live in the Beaverton district, where more than 85 languages are spoken in the familiy homes. Some kids go home to empty houses (unless you count the TV set) and some get all the support they need. Then we expect the teacher to be able to differentiate curriculum to meet the needs of all students, even if there are 30+ in the class.

    So what do people like Bailie propose? If we cut salaries and benefits, people inspiring to be teachers will find another career path. We should be doing everything possible to encourage bright and caring young people to become teachers.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    dena,

    You say, We all know Bailie's arguments and I am pretty sure many of us could speak them verbatim but I hope to move beyond that.

    I don't know that I have ever had this discussion with you. It goes to the heart of Oregon K-12 funding and should be discussed. I guess the simple question is:

    "Why should Oregon K-12 employees be individually compensated higher than almost all other states?" We could have up to 8,000 additional teachers, complete school years and full programs, if the individual compensation were still higher than most other states, but not nearly as high as now. Our Oregon K-12 academic results do not correlate to the high individual compensation.

  • chris McMullen (unverified)
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    T/A said: I love my son, and I'll be damned if I'm going to put up with this any more. He deserves better.

    Then put him in a private school.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Suzanne,

    You say, Even assuming that Bailie's statistics are valid, I don't have any problem with Oregon having generous teacher salaries and benefits.

    Teaching is not an easy job, no question. Most jobs aren't easy. I would ask the same question for you as "dena". What is unique about Oregon, that our K-12 employees should receive higher individual compensation than the employees of almost all other states? Wouldn't it be better for Oregon K-12 education to have smaller class sizes (especially K-3), complete programs and school years? Yet still, have our teachers paid higher than the 25th ranking state.

    The status quo of Oregon K-12 leaves much to be desired. We rank 32nd in graduation success, even though we have among the easiest state requirements for graduation in the U.S. We rank 49th in K-12 student attendance. Oregon ranks 41st in percentage of high school graduates that enroll in college following graduation. The list goes on and on, and is very average.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    As my economics professor said to me while reading and chuckling at Bailie's thin grasp of statistics,

    "Figures lie and liars figure."

    Congrats on the new IP, Bailie. Which public library are you trolling from these days?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    As my economics professor said to me while reading and chuckling at Bailie's thin grasp of statistics,

    "Figures lie and liars figure."

    Congrats on the new IP, Bailie. Which public library are you trolling from these days?

  • Hawesybear (unverified)
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    Let me get this straight, after reading all the posts the only problem for some people appears to be that fact that teacher salaries and benefits significantly exceed the national average. How much should teachers be compensated and what type of benefit package should they receive?

    I'm no expert and I will be first to admit I didn't much research, but my understanding is that much of the discrepancy in teacher benefits resulted from the obnoxious benefit packages that state employees recieved during the high flying 90s. Many of the problems that have arisen from generous benefit packages have been addressed by the State Legislature during the last session. Over time, the disparity between Oregon and the national average will shrink. Finally, don't forget the accelerating costs of health coverage.

    So back to my question, what is fair teacher compensation? My personnal belief is that teachers are not compensated enough. If you want to attact the best and brightest people into the teaching profession, you better be willing make that investment.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thank you, Hawesybear.

    There is a point of view ( see the Statesman-Journal front page story today about Saxton and PERS) that all good people are employees in the private (or maybe nonprofit) sector and public employee unions must be crushed because they are full of lazy (if not evil) overpaid awful people who do nothing for the common good. Saxton talks about forcing public employee unions to the bargaining table to eliminate PERS. Someone needs to tell him that in a democracy it is all about having the votes to do something, we don't govern by decree.

    There are lots of states other than Oregon and lots of careers other than teaching. No one can be required to be an Oregon teacher. I don't see how turning the rights of teachers back 50 years and paying them poorly helps quality education. No amount of statistics will convince me otherwise--I think the tax breaks and pay of many in private business management(not to mention what we are learning about DeLay, Abramoff and the gang) are more offensive.

    Some people may not like my attitude but I have as much right to it as anyone who says public employees are lazy and overpaid. No one of the "vote for me so we can crush public employees" persuasion will get my vote.

    And our "king of statistics" seems to think if he repeats the same message over and over again eventually we will believe it. Well, I have a message for him.

    He could run for office himself and see if there is public support of his ideas, or he could join the Saxton campaign because he clearly agrees with Saxton that public employee pay packages are too large.

    Or he could just post over and over on Blue Oregon and other

    But most people know otherwise--that those doing the complaining wouldn't last long as a teacher, emergency worker, public safety worker, etc. because the work is too difficult and demanding.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Hawesybear,

    You ask, "what is fair teacher compensation?"

    The focus is on Oregon teacher compensation. The discussion, at least on my part, includes all K-12 employees, although teachers are the budget mover because of their numbers. Also, the discussion should be, what is best for K-12 education/students in Oregon. Clearly, the relatively high individual compensation in Oregon has not produced corresponding academic results. Oregon K-12 would be considerably enhanced with 5,000 additional teachers, smaller class sizes, full programs and complete school years. This would be accomplished with Oregon K-12 employees ranked about 20th in total compensation, rather than 8th. There are a large number of states which compensate the employees considerably less than Oregon, yet have superior academic results. The high individual compensation has prevented the expansion of K-12 education in Oregon.

    It should be difficult to ignore that Oregon is ranked 36th in "per capita income". When the largest segment of the Oregon budget is being compensated as 8th highest in the U.S., other parts of the public sector suffer considerably. We do not have the economic base to support this high level of compensation. It is that simple, and is illustrated by the funding problems so evident presently in Oregon.

    Oregon annually compensates more than $500 million above the 25th ranking state in individual compensation for K-12 employees and we can't afford the cost. It has taken Oregon 20 years to get into this mess, and it will probably take a few years to get out of this. The sooner we start, the better it will be for Oregon K-12.

    Why should Oregon teachers be individually compensated greater than similar employees of almost all of the other states?

  • Hawesybear (unverified)
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    Baile,

    You make some very valid points. Are we getting our money's worth regarding educating our students? If the numbers are to be believed, and I do not doubt their veracity, I am inclined to agree with you that the taxpayers are not getting their money's worth especially based on todays dollars. With that said though, since a significant portion of the $500 million dollars above the average goes towards benefits (PERS), over time you will see other states catch up and surpass Oregon because PERS has been dramatically cut back. The shift towards average will happen over time not over night. "The shift towards average," I cringe at my own thought.

    So what do we do now? I certainly don't believe in cutting more money from the education budget.....oh wait I should say, not keep education funding current adjusted for inflation is the way to go. I think blasting teacher salaries is overly simplistic and the easy answer, not necessarily correct. I sure don't have the answers, but after visiting the sight I think the Chalkboard Project is trying to find some.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Fair pay for teachers?

    Let's see. Oregon kids score TOPS (or 2nd in USA) in SAT and ACT every year, so our teachers should get the top pay in the country -- about $105,000 per year -- same as Hinsdale School District in suburban Chicago and many many districts in NJ and Conn.

    $100,000. Plus bennies. Per year.

    That's ONE day's pay for Dr. Kennth Lay, disgraced and disgruntled CEO of a company called Enron and lifer Bernie (Pass the Soap, Pretty Please) Ebbers, former goon at WorldCom.

    Thoughts?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Fair pay for teachers?

    Let's see. Oregon kids score TOPS (or 2nd in USA) in SAT and ACT every year, so our teachers should get the top pay in the country -- about $105,000 per year -- same as Hinsdale School District in suburban Chicago and many many districts in NJ and Conn.

    $100,000. Plus bennies. Per year.

    That's ONE day's pay for Dr. Kennth Lay, disgraced and disgruntled CEO of a company called Enron and lifer Bernie (Pass the Soap, Pretty Please) Ebbers, former goon at WorldCom.

    Thoughts?

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Hawesybear,

    I agree. I am not proposing to cut anything from the Oregon K-12 budget. Also, I am not "blasting" teacher salaries, but there has to be an a realignment with what this state can afford and what is best for Oregon K-12.

    The PERS situation will be getting much worse, before it gets better, unfortunately. In 2005, the average school district will be paying about 16.97 percent of salaries toward PERS. This will be increasing to 22.8 percent in 2007. In 2005 benefits for K-12 teachers will be very close to 45 percent of salaries. In 2007, benefits will be over 54 percent of salaries. This is by far the highest in the U.S.

    The problem is that the benefits are indexed to the high salaries. It will be difficult to to sustain the level without impacting the rest of the public sector.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)
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    I've read the back and forth between Bailie and his/her critics for at least several months. I've even chimed in on the PERS issue at times. I agree with Bailie that one of the main reasons we have crowded classrooms is that in Oregon we've got higher than average compensation rates for teachers. Thats very clear from the available facts. But I'm OK with higher than average wages. 8th best in the nation? Sounds OK. I think teachers should be well paid.

    Its the benefits that have gotten outrageously expensive, out of proprtion to what is proper, and in my opinion, counterproductive to good government services. And they need to be trimmed or curtailed. (flame on)

    But, that said, I disagree with Bailie that we should even be bringing up PERS and medical benefit coverage when talking about education funding. I'm fine with dealing with the benefits issue on a universal context. So lets discuss PERS and how it effects ODOT budgets, Police budgets, Court budgets, building inspection costs, city managers compensation and every public cost that we fund. Because if ther eis a problem it relates to all public spending. (can you imaging someone saying we need to trim the cost of prisons because prison gaurds make too much in PERS and medical??)

    By constantly talking abou the PERS issue only in the education context, we're allowing certain anti-tax and anti-educatin elements an excuse to try to bleed education to prove their point about "excessive" public employee benefits.

    I won't buy it. Lets talk about what schools and the kids need to properly educate our children, our future. Becasue kids don't get a second chance at 3rd grade.

    So when Bailie or others, properly in my opinion, talk about how public employee expensive benefits are excessive, I'll say, good point, why don't you bring that up as a statewide policy issue because it effects all state and local budgets, not just education, and we can't solve that problem by bleeding schools, and I think the education of our children is the last place we should be proving a point. Pick another program because right now, this year, we have to figure out how to get current students a good education.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Robert,

    You say, "I'm fine with dealing with the benefits issue on a universal context. So lets discuss PERS and how it effects ODOT budgets, Police budgets, Court budgets, building inspection costs, city managers compensation and every public cost that we fund."

    I completely agree with you, that the problem of very high benefits extends far beyond education. I have focused on education because there is the constant plea for additional funding for education. This post was complaining about underfunding of K-12. It is my contention that there is adequate funding if it were allocated better. What you are saying is that Oregon is better off to have relatively few highly compensated teachers (creating the 4th highest student/teacher ratio), rather than 5,000 additional teachers and considerably smaller class sizes. I disagree. Just in comparison to Washington, we are individually compensating Oregon teachers about $400 million more than Washington. Are our academic results better? No. Would the results be better with 5,000 more teachers? I contend that they would.

    I am not suggesting to cut the Oregon K-12 budget. I am not suggesting "bleeding" any money from education. I am suggesting that we would be much better off by having an additional 5,000 teachers (K-3) in our system, complete school years and programs.

  • (Show?)

    I am getting so tired of teacher salaries and benefits being brought up in this discussion. That isn't our biggest problem. It's a small chunk of the problem.

    From the Oregon School Boards Assoc:

    Oregon spend $346 less per student on salaries in its public schools than the national average. We do have more students per teacher, which means their individual salaries are higher than other states. But they're also doing more work since they have more students. That's why you never compare actual salaries-- you always compare PER STUDENT numbers. Comparing PER STUDENT numbers are a much more accurate way to compare from school to school or state to state.

    So even if you cut teacher salaries and hired more teachers (reducing the student-teacher ratio), the amount we spend per student on salaries will not change. It will remain the same, which is LESS THAN THE NATIONAL AVERAGE.

    For the 2002-03 school year, Oregon dropped to 31st-highest among the states in per-student spending, nearly $1,000 per-student below the national average.

    We're spending less per student than local private schools, and they often don't educate the most students whose education costs the much (such as those with disabilities or behavorial problems).

    As I've stated before, the word straight from the schools is:

    Central Catholic: "Tuition for the 2005-2006 school year is $7,700." Books cost an average of $300-500.

    St. Mary's Academy: "The actual cost per student of a St. Mary's Academy education this year will be $11,200."

    Portland Adventist: Students from Seventh-Day Adventist Churches, get in for $7,150.00- $7,300.00 (because the churches give the school money). Students who aren't members of those churches get in for $9,950.00. That doesn't include a $250 application fee or books. ESL students are charged $9,950.00. "Additional charges are payable as incurred. These would include art class supplies, special P.E. classes and uniforms, workbooks, school supplies, lab charges, testing fees for special tests, and graduation fee."

    And these private schools also have large endowments and such from churches and benefactors. This money is also spent on the students, which typically brings the actual amount spent per student to over $10K. Only St. Mary's lists the actual amount to educate a student.

    And just as public schools, these amounts do not include construction budgets and such. This is why we do not use the "all funds" to compare money, as construction varies from school to school. A school that was just built is going to show a higher amount of constuction money than a school whose bonds are paid off.

    The biggest problem isn't teacher salaries or benefits. Even if you cut them and were able to spend that money on more teachers, it doesn't change the PER STUDENT amounts at all.

    And if that money is directed to other areas where cuts have been made, the spending per student can actually go down.

    The biggest problem is the amount of money making it to the classroom-- that amount includes teacher salaries and benefits.

    Right now Oregon spends 59.4% of its money in the classroom. The national average is 61.8%. The remaining 40.6% of money is spent in areas like administration, transporting children to school or paying school nurses and librarians. However, since we know schools have cut way back on librarians and other such support staff, it's unlikely too much money is being spent there. Rural areas are the ones most likely to have large transportation budgets since they have to drive further to pick up kids.

    Why is Oregon spending less than 2/3 of its money in the classroom?

    We need to look at a much bigger problem than just teacher benefits or salaries being too high (according to some). It's a problem of us not spending enough money PER STUDENT and not enough money being spent in the classroom.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    Also from the OSBA website:

    1) "For each teacher, secretary, principal, janitor and other worker, Oregon schools paid an average of $18,300 for health insurance and retirement pay in 2002-03. That was 55 percent more than schools across the nation."

    2) "If Oregon were to match the national rate, schools would save about $500 million next year, money they could use to help reduce class sizes that are among the nation's largest."With more than 55,000 full-time workers in Oregon schools, the costly employee benefits add up to more than $2 billion over two years.

    3) "Benefits put a big dent in how much schools can pump into the classroom to reduce class size, add counselors and provide extra help for struggling students."

    4) "Oregon schools can expect about $8 billion to spend in the next two years, including about $5.2 billion from the Legislature.

    The extra half-billion a year that goes to benefits will do little to raise achievement."

    5) "Huge pensions, awarded through Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System to teachers and other public employees hired before August 2003, did almost nothing to attract a higher caliber of employee to schools, teachers acknowledge.

    It is easy for you to ignore the main problem in K-12 funding, but this problem will persist until it is recognized and acted upon. This state cannot afford the very high individual K-12 compensation and hire the adequate number of teachers. This state is 36th in "per capita income" and has led the nation in unemployment for the last 5 year period. We do not have the economic base to maintain the high individual compensation. We can hire a relatively few K-12 employees at high cost or we can hire many more at a lower cost (but still above the national average). But we can't have it both ways. What we are doing now is not working.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thank you Jenni. That ought to convince those whose priority is giving students a good education. Such people are solution oriented.

    But as for the "enemy oriented" folks whose real concern is bashing teachers, they should all go work on the Saxton campaign. His remarks today in the Statesman-Journal show someone whose main goal is to demolish PERS and "force unions to the bargaining table" rather than looking at the hard work many public employees (esp. teachers) are doing. Such people seem to see unions as the enemy. Too bad they weren't living 100 years ago. Whatever disagreements I have had with unions over the years, the unions early last century led the way in areas like safe workplaces and overtime regulations.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    You say, "So even if you cut teacher salaries and hired more teachers (reducing the student-teacher ratio), the amount we spend per student on salaries will not change. It will remain the same, which is LESS THAN THE NATIONAL AVERAGE."

    I agree. So let's spend the money we have more wisely, and hire 5,000 additional teachers with the finite amount available. At this time, we are spending higher on education than we can afford, when measured by Oregon's "per capita income". By spending higher on education, it is easy to understand why the rest of the public sector is struggling the way it is.

  • (Show?)

    LT--

    Thanks. I've gotten to where I just ignore Bailie's repeated stuff about cutting teacher salaries and benefits. It doesn't take a genius to see that taking money from one teacher and giving it to another does nothing to increase the money spent per student or the money spent in the classroom.

    You can't compare individual salaries or benefits. That means you're comparing a state with 20 students per teacher to a state with over 30 students per teacher. Of course one would have higher individual salaries than the other-- one is doing 30%+ more work.

    Yea, lowering the salaries/benefits and spending on additional teachers would lower student/teacher ratios. What you'd end up with is poorly paid teachers, spending per student still below the national average, and classroom spending still below 60%.

    The biggest problem is the amount of money that is spent per student, in addition to the amount that actually makes it to the classroom.

    Making cuts in non-instruction areas (to positions that don't directly affect students, so cuts to positions like librarians shouldn't be made first) and putting that money into instruction is one of the first things we should do. That will help to increase the amount spent per student and how much is spent in the classroom.

    But we also need to increase the total amount the state spends on schools. Of course the budget continues to go up, dollar-wise. There are more students. We need to upgrade schools so that they can have computers and other such items to bring them into the 21st century. Things are just plain costing more, especially with the cost of gas and electricity constantly going up. There are a lot of reasons why schools get more expensive, without it meaning schools are actually getting "more" money. Many times this additional money isn't enough to keep a school at the same level as the year before, which means cuts somewhere.

    I've also brought up some ideas before that would help increase the amount of time students spend in the classroom at a cheaper cost than adding days onto the school year.

    It mainly deals with increasing the length of the school day. I must admit I was quite surprised upon moving to Oregon to see how short the school day is.

    At Gresham High School, first period begins at 8 a.m. and classes end at 2:22.

    At my high school in Texas, classes began at 7:20 a.m. and we ended at 2:25. We also went to school more days per year than the district. This meant that we were putting in many more hours each school year than schools here.

    Extending the school day adds instruction hours without:

    • additional school bus trips • additional lunches to be served • additional custodial hours • the increased cost to initially heat/cool the buildings each morning

    These are just some of the costs you wouldn't see, but would still have additional instruction hours.

    Yes, you would need to pay those staff who would be there for the additional hours more money. But, in many instances you can probably get them to do it for the same amount of money. Teachers want additional instruction time-- not because it means more money, but because it means the students have more time to learn.

    And even if they do want more money, it's less per hour than if you just added more days to the year. They don't have additional trips to/from school. They don't have additional lessons to prepare-- just more time to spend on the lessons they've already prepared. Right now they're rushing to get everything done.

    In grades where students have "periods," you can add an additional period (or more, depending how much time you add on). This means students can pick up additional credits each year-- they can take more science classes, more math classes, etc.

    There are a lot of solutions we can look at, but not many are willing to sit down and really look at the problems and the solutions. They'd rather pick one scapegoat and beat it until it's dead.

  • (Show?)

    Bailie--

    That's where you're wrong. We aren't spending more than we can afford. What we're doing is relying more on individuals to pay for the schools and less on businesses and corporations.

    There's more than comparing per capita income to how much we spend for schools. After all, it's not just individuals who are paying taxes-- it's businesses, it's corporations, it's people who don't live in this state but have a rental home, etc.

    Maybe we should look at increasing the $10 minimum tax that corporations pay. Or remove the yacht deduction on income taxes. That deduction costs us tens of millions.

  • Hawesybear (unverified)
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    Baile had one good point that cannot be ignored. Would 5000 teachers be in the best interest of Oregon students? I would have to empahtically say YES. I'm just not sure if I agree how we get there.

    Sorry Jenni, but $500 million is a big number so I must bring up PERS again. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Legislature corrected many of the problems involving PERS. I also understand that a few of the provisions were shot down by the courts. Has nothing changed? Will PERS continue to increase unabated or will it begin to level off? After reading these posts, I'm under the imperssion that nothing has changed or PERS is not changing fast enough.

    I would like to add that Jenni has the best grasp of the complexities involving school funding. I don't think that we can arbitraily say here is $500 million lets go ahead and re-allocate. Please excuse the bleading heart stuff, but public servants are patriots and they should be rewarded as such. Should teachers recieve exorbitant benefits, probably not but they do deserve a lot.

  • user (unverified)
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    Sigh. Thanks guys for a useless repetition of the same tired debate.

    I'm regretting ever moving here from North Carolina, a supposedly backwards Southern state with far higher rates of poverty, ESL students, and racial divisions, but where schools were better funded, government was more functional, and liberals and conservatives actually had constructive policy debates.

    I guess when the regional tax goes down to flaming defeat next year as the anti-tax advocates oppose anything T-A-X and everyone else whines about PERS or compensation, meanwhile class sizes fly past 50 and the middle class flees.

    Yuppie playground here we come. Enjoy it folks. Maybe I'll just cash in on the inflated home prices and find somewhere else (Clark County?) that supports public education.

  • alice (unverified)
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    I'm not into cutting pay for teachers--I think they deserve every penny and more. I do think it makes sense to look at benefit plans, though.

    As healthcare consumers, most of us who still have insurance through employers have learned to pay a bit more attention to what we're doing and how we're spending money. If the prescription costs $40 for the brand name and $5 for the generic, we're likely to ask for the generic. Most of us have co-pays or deductibles, and we pay extra to insure other members of our family. We don't shoulder the whole cost, but we pay part of it--usually with pre-tax dollars. The days of full-ride insurance are over, if we still have health insurance.

    A friend who works in the health insurance industry tells me that the teachers unions have negotiated better health care benefits than any other working group. I haven't done the research myself, so I can't provide figures, but I trust my source. According to her, teachers have smaller or nonexistent co-pays and very low- or no-cost coverage for dependents. These benefits cost a lot, even for young, healthy folks who don't use them.

    I read in an article in the Oregonian (again, sorry, no link) that the average cost for health insurance was over $900 per month per teacher. As a self-employed person, I was able to get what I thought was very, very good coverage for myself and my husband for around $500/month simply by joining an association.

    Do you think it would be worth examining the health care benefits part of the package? I don't want to take away any health care that teachers need, but maybe we are paying for some benefits that very few people need or use. We are also not providing much incentive for teachers and their families to use healthcare wisely.

    Can any of the teachers here comment about their health plans? How do they compare with typical health plans in private industry?

  • (Show?)

    Hawesybear--

    Thanks. I've been quite involved in the fight for education for quite a while now. At the age of 12 I was attending school board meetings and regularly speaking during the public comment period.

    At the age of 18, I ran for school board-- I was a senior in high school. I ran again the next year. I lived in a town overrun with Christian conservatives, and I disagreed with them about the separation of church and state (Santa Fe v. Doe, 2000 -- that's my town). As such, it was no surprise that I lost both times.

    I have been thinking about running here in Gresham sometime in the next few years. I've got a few things in my personal life I've got to take care of (such as my health problems that have led to my surgery on Thursday), but then I'm going to run. I'd eventually like to be in the state legislature so that I can have a say in how education is funded.

    You're right-- $500M is a big number. And I'm not suggesting we overlook it. I'm just not sure how much can be done on top of what's already been done. We've changed PERS twice, with everyone hired after the changes were made falling under the new plan. It's hard to make too many more changes, as they're part of their contract (which is why the courts threw out those changes). We could do like Saxton recommends and fire everyone and then re-hire them. But would you want to do that? I certainly don't.

    The problem is that when changes are suggested, it's always done in a hostile way. Maybe they should get public employees on a panel to work on some changes that could be made to PERS that people would be happy with? Maybe start with teachers, coming up with something that makes them happy? Maybe it needs to be done on a district by district level. But maybe if we actually came to the table with an open mind and a positive attitude towards the teachers, we could come to a compromise. Most teachers do what they do because they love students and love teaching. They don't do it for the money. If they were in it for the money, you'd see more of them in the private sector working as chemists (as opposed to chemistry teachers), editors (as opposed to English teachers), etc.

    But there is no way teachers are going to give up anything unless they can be guaranteed that money will go to the students and won't be cut. The way our legislature has been working, any dollar the teachers give up would just end up being cut. The legislature would go on and on about how great it is that they made cuts without laying off teachers, cutting the school year, cutting programs, etc. What the public would never know is that the money came from the teachers, who willingly gave up money to add instruction time, teachers, and programs.

    But I'd say 40.6% of $5 billion is a lot more. That's where we have to look if we want to make a difference in how much we spend in the classrooms. And of course the state legislature has got to do something to increase the budget for not only K-12, but also pre-k, community college, and our state universities.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    There are a lot of posts before this one and I am not going to go back and check names, but to the person who suggested TA send his son to a private school, I ask: did you go to a public school and is that your excuse for being such a boor? If, on the other hand, you attended a private school, it didn't do you much good.

    I'm with TA on this. It is indeed shameful and also incredibly shortsighted to shortchange our schools. If there is anything the public should splurge on, it's schools. Schools should become the grandest, most beautiful and most wonderful environments in our cities. Teachers should be paid handsomely and there should be a lot more of them. Schools should be a place where kids want to go to every day--and they should go there for a lot more days than they do no. That doesn't mean schools should be soft and easy--in fact, the opposite--but they should be exciting places of learning.

    I'm saying this as an owner of a private martial arts school that has benefitted from the cuts in school spending, because parents send their kids to me for needed physical education, as well as to give them skills to cope in the harsh environment of overpacked classrooms.

    Societies that spend money on education prosper. Those that don't eventually die.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Jenni, a suggestion: I have been thinking about running here in Gresham sometime in the next few years. I've got a few things in my personal life I've got to take care of (such as my health problems that have led to my surgery on Thursday), but then I'm going to run. I'd eventually like to be in the state legislature so that I can have a say in how education is funded.

    A friend of mine was elected to the school board many long years ago. Part of her preparation for running was to attend all school board meetings for a year so she knew she could handle the time commitments along with work and family responsibilities. It was a great election--she won and so did another friend, both running as progressive problem solvers. It helped that her job involved working with large budgets, and her opponent had no budget experience.

    That was a great election night--just after she got a call saying she'd won, someone in the crowd yelled "cheer if this is the first successful election you've worked on in a long time" and there was a loud cheer--some of the folks had worked together on several elections.

    Oh, and keep your eyes on the Salem Keizer school board--a majority of new members and some things are already changing for the better.

  • (Show?)

    LT--

    Thanks. I'll definitely be doing that, as it's pretty much the only way to keep up with what's going on here in Gresham. Unfortunately, the local paper (Gresham Outlook) doesn't see the need to regularly cover what happened at the school board & city council meetings.

    I've worked for two different newspaper companies-- at one we put out two community newspapers a week, the other we put out three. For every paper we always covered the city council and school board meetings that happened for the communities we covered. There's always something that can be written about.

    It also helps to get a copy of the briefings that the school board members are given. At the school I went to, it was a binder filled with info. It was automatically given to every candidate for the few meetings before the election. They're nice to have, as you can really study the numbers, what's going on with the schools, etc.-- all the things you never hear about at the meetings or in the paper. There are a lot of reports that are just accepted or approved with little or no discussion.

    Glad to hear that about Salem Keizer. Hopefully more districts will follow. I know PPS sure needs some help.

  • Mister Rodgers (unverified)
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    Another poster commented that TA Barnhard's "writing sucks and his attempts at humor are pretty bad." Well, I'd have to argue that Barnhart does "seriois" even worse.

    The above post is very telling if one reads between the lines. Here we have a perfect example of someone that takes zero responsibility for themselves and blames all their problems on lack of money. Here we have a parent that says they have missed 70% of their kids childhood yet only lives 5 miles away. A parent that does most of their "parenting" by phone and only drives over for a hug after yelling at the kid. Sounds like that "emotional detachment" of your parents that you mentioned definitly got passed on to you TA.

    You say you don't want a lot from others; you just want them to raise your kid for you. You then say you're sick of everyones's excuses, apparently except your own excuses. You say you want & have a job that pays enough to take care of your family, yet in the same breath say that you don't have healthcare. You say that your next step with involve "public anger", like that's going to help your son's situation.

    Dear Mistah Barnhart, have you ever considered just getting a better job and earning more money so you could take the responsibility yourself of raising and educating your child? Maybe spending less time journalistically jacking-off here and spending more time with your child? Or even, God forbid, getting a second job like many of us other single parents have to do.

    You sure don't take much personal responsibility for somebody that's always writing at length how smart and educated you are. You seem to have the answers to fix everyone's problem but yuor own. Perhaps you should attempt to correct some of the problems in your own life before you spend so much time pontificating on how everyone else could do a better job of fixing your problems for you.

    Then, there's always the possibility that you're an idiot and your child's inherited DNA did not fall far from the tree.

  • Bilbo Baggins (unverified)
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    Score one for Mister Rodgers! Applause, applause!!!

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Hawsebear writes: Sorry Jenni, but $500 million is a big number so I must bring up PERS again. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Legislature corrected many of the problems involving PERS. I also understand that a few of the provisions were shot down by the courts. Has nothing changed? Will PERS continue to increase unabated or will it begin to level off? After reading these posts, I'm under the imperssion that nothing has changed or PERS is not changing fast enough.

    The changes to PERS passed by the 2003 Legislature and resulting from the City of Eugene litigation and settlement alter PERS benefits by more than $4 billion dollars. The retroactive changes to retiree benefits recover more than $800 million (yes, these changes are retroactive, although it is an issue of the semantics of what 'retroactive' means. It means that for most of us post 1999 retirees, our CURRENT benefits will be cut starting next year). But the reasons that employer costs continue rise are: (1) employers are NOT required to pay their full obligation annually (2) PERS uses a "smoothing" method to even out asset gains and losses to keep employer rate increases more stable. The result is that in really good years (like 2003), the employers only get 25% of the increase, while losses from previous years get carried forward and have to be covered. Gains and losses are spread over a 4 year cycle. One would think that this would produce more stability, but study after study has shown that this increases volatility for employers. (3) The courts have clearly defined what the PERS "contract" is. The employers and the Legislature continue to try to rewrite the contract unilaterally. This results in costly litigation that ends up with PERS reducing employer rates while the litigation is pending and raising the rates when the legislation is inevitably overturned (see e.g. the issue with the "guaranteed" rate of return for Tier 1 regular accounts).

    PERS employer rates will go down; just not immediately. Despite all the savings from the litigation, the employers asked for, and received, all sorts of dispensations from paying currently high rates. Sooner or later those bills will come due. Once those past due bills are paid, the rates can come down.

    It's easy to blame member benefits for the high system cost, but the public employers largely have themselves to blame for the fact that the legislation didn't reduce their rates more.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    You say, "It's easy to blame member benefits for the high system cost, but the public employers largely have themselves to blame for the fact that the legislation didn't reduce their rates more."

    I agree that the public employers and the legislature dropped the ball. I also suggest, that the money of special interest in this state did there job very well to influence the decisions that were made. The decisions were self promoting to the detriment of the State of Oregon, and now we are paying a tremendous price.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    Can you get specific on your ideas. I have presented what I feel is very adequate data to support my conclusions, which you have rejected completely.

    You say that you have spent considerable time on this subject through the years.

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

    2) Where specifically do you want to obtain the revenue? How much will you anticipate from each source?

    3) Why would you suggest that the voters in Oregon would 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?

    7) You keep talking about "the money getting to the classroom". What do you mean by that? Eighty-five percent of a school district budget goes to human resources. Are you suggesting cutting back on Administration (only about 5 percent of a budget)? Custodians/classified personnel, or what specifically?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Bailie is a one-note troll with a new IP -- cut teacher salaries now.

    We'll cut teacher salaries when W and Dark Dick and Condi become men.

    That'd be... never.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Bailie is a one-note troll with a new IP -- cut teacher salaries now.

    We'll cut teacher salaries when W and Dark Dick and Condi become men.

    That'd be... never.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni, Just a quick irrelevant comment.

    You suggest, "But, in many instances you can probably get them to do it for the same amount of money. Teachers want additional instruction time-- not because it means more money, but because it means the students have more time to learn."

    We obviously haven't been to the same negotiating table. I find it surprising that you would make the above statement. At first, I thought you were joking.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Another point regarding schools that needs to be understood and discussed is how Oregon funds new school construction. In California and other states they collect the equivalent of system development charges (SDCs) for schools on new home construction. In Oregon the legislators at the probable behest of developers and the building industry prohibits communities from collecting these SDCs. This has meant that families move into new developments and increase the school populations which means a need for new schools, but they pay nothing towards the costs of constructing these new schools. The buck is passed to established residents, many of whom have already paid for all existing schools and can no longer afford to pay for more. The consequences is school bonds get turned down and classrooms are so filled that students have to sit on the floor. More discussion on this and the related topic of annexation is available at www.fodeco.org.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    Bailie-

    So you are suggesting that teaching is actually about money, not the kids anymore?

  • (Show?)

    Bailie--

    I told you, I'm not doing this debate anymore. You refuse to accept any other numbers, solutions, etc. than your own. You're completely stuck on cutting salaries and benefits, which still doesn't solve the problem of more money getting into the classrooms or more spent per student-- both of which we're below the national average on.

    I never said a word about raising taxes, except on corporations. The voting public supports businesses like Enron paying more than $10 in taxes. And cutting things like the yacht tax, which costs tens of millions each budget cycle.

    I know tax measures on people's income won't pass. I live in eastern Multnomah County where they won't pass a tax so our firestations don't collapse during an earthquake. And as someone who has been unemployed since 2003, I know all about unemployment-- our household income was $22K (HOUSEHOLD, as in $11K per capita) until my husband's recent raise. Now it's $13K per capita.

    As I said before, we put too much of a tax burden on individuals in this state and not enough on big businesses. We need to change that.

    Less than 60% of general operating funds are spent in the classroom. That's below the national average. Other states have been able to bring it to at least 65% and some are shooting for 70%. Those are much better numbers and mean hundreds of millions of more dollars. On a $5 billion K-12 budget that's $300,000,000 more dollars if you can up Oregon's percentage by 6%.

    And yes, I have seen bargaining before. Many of the people doing that bargaining are out of touch with the general population of teachers they "represent." I did not say bring those people to the table. I said to pull together a panel of teachers to discuss the topic.

    And I've known lots and lots of teachers-- and I'd say over 95% of them didn't care about the money. Several had jobs in the private sector that took less work and paid twice as much. But they loved the students and loved teaching.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    This is too important of a topic, to just ignore the search for solutions. Clearly, that is what has happened for the last twenty years. It is too easy to sit back and criticize, and yet offer nothing to solve the problem. That is exactly why Oregon is in our present precarious condition.

    Does anyone have any offer of valid solutions? Can anyone answer the question, "Why should Oregon K-12 employees receive the 8th highest compensation of all states, when academic results do not correlate to the ranking?" Is Oregon K-12 better off with the status quo, rather than having an additional 5,000 teachers (K-3), complete school years and programs?

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    You say, "Less than 60% of general operating funds are spent in the classroom. That's below the national average. Other states have been able to bring it to at least 65% and some are shooting for 70%."

    I haven't seen that information. Could you provide a link? Does this reasoning support abolishing the Oregon Department of Education? Or what?

  • (Show?)

    I'm not ignoring solutions. I'm stating that what you are proposing does not solve the main problem-- that we rank at the bottom of the nation in classroom spending. And we're around $1,000 under the national average in per student spending. Those are huge problems that cutting teacher salaries/benefits aren't going to change.

    And I'm also offering several solutions of my own. I have throughout my posts.

    There were several news stories on in some months back. We had a lengthy discussion for days over at Oregon Live on the topic. However, most media outlets only keep stories around a few weeks, so finding the stories isn't easy. That's why I've now gotten into the habit of saving stories that I want to have access to later.

    One organization that is working on this idea is First Class Education-- http://www.firstclasseducation.org/

    You can see some of the info and news stories there.

    Here's the Oregon page: http://www.firstclasseducation.org/or.asp

    They get their data from places such as the National Center for Education Statistics (a federal government agency). According to their numbers, Oregon ranks #42 in classroom spending.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni, Thanks for the link. I noticed:

    1) "Sen. Chuck Starr, R-Hillsboro, introduced a bill during the 2005 session that would have required schools to keep 65 cents of every education dollar in the classroom. The bill died without having received a hearing. Starr wasn't available to discuss if he will revisit the topic."

    Do you know if this was shot down by the Democrats?

    2) "Ed Edwards, government relations director for the Oregon School Employees Association , believes a 65 percent campaign would be bad for schools.

    "It's a great sound bite: 65 percent to direct classroom activity. But it's ignoring this whole other segment of what it takes to make the classroom work," he said. The association represents 20,000 school employees in 130 districts statewide, most of them custodians, secretaries, food service workers, education assistants and technology support staff. Those are the employee groups most likely to be cut if schools had to shift resources to the classroom.

    "Today, teachers teach because secretaries are answering the phone," he said.

    Are the unions against this idea, thus controlling the negative Democrat vote?

  • (Show?)

    I don't know how Dems felt about the bill introduced by Starr. But since it didn't make it out of Committee, Republicans must have been against it-- they're the ones who control the House.

    I may be able to find a bit of info on the state legislature's website. Of course it would be easier if I had a bill number. Maybe his website will tell (if he has one).

    I'm sure the Oregon School Employees Association (union) is against it. Cuts made to salaries and positions outside of teachers mean cuts to their people. The priority of people heading up these unions sometimes get stuck on protecting their own and forget why they're there-- for the students.

    If cuts have to be made to staff and/or salaries, those cuts should always be made to support staff and administrators first. Schools are there to educate-- that is job #1. As such, teachers should only be cut after cuts have been made in other areas. Lately it hasn't been that way. PPS was cutting teachers while hiring 3 administrators at over $100K/year. They should've not hired those three people and kept on some teachers.

    If the voice mail has to pick up a bit more or an administrator has to answer his/her own phone, parents will understand. What they don't understand is a full admin building while their kids' classroom has almost 40 kids in it.

  • (Show?)

    Boy, sure can tell I haven't had enough sleep-- I can't even read. Worries about the surgery tomorrow kept me up.

    I see now that he's a Senator, not a Representative. So it's possible that Dems may have kept it from going through. I'm going to see what I can find out about hs bill.

  • (Show?)

    Here's what I have located so far:

    SB 1065 By Senator B STARR; Senators ATKINSON, BEYER, NELSON, C STARR, WHITSETT -- Relating to school districts.

    5-17(S) Introduction and first reading. Referred to President's desk.

    5-19 Referred to Rules, then Budget.

    8-5 In committee upon adjournment.

    73rd OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY--2005 Regular Session

    NOTE: Matter within { + braces and plus signs + } in an amended section is new. Matter within { - braces and minus signs - } is existing law to be omitted. New sections are within { + braces and plus signs + } .

    LC 3608

                        Senate Bill 1065
    

    Sponsored by Senator B STARR; Senators ATKINSON, BEYER, NELSON, C STARR, WHITSETT

                             SUMMARY
    

    The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor's brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced.

    Directs school districts to expend minimum specified percentage of moneys received from State School Fund and local revenues on expenses related to provision of classroom instruction.

                        A BILL FOR AN ACT
    

    Relating to school districts. Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon: SECTION 1. { + Each fiscal year, a school district shall expend at least 65 percent of moneys received from the State School Fund and from local revenues as described in ORS 327.013 during that fiscal year on expenses related to the provision of classroom instruction. Expenses for the provision of classroom instruction include: (1) Teacher salaries and benefits; (2) Instructional assistant salaries and benefits; (3) Librarian salaries and benefits; (4) Teacher, instructional assistant and librarian staff development; and (5) Textbooks and supplies used in a classroom. + } SECTION 2. { + Section 1 of this 2005 Act applies to fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2006. + }

  • (Show?)

    From what I've found (and it was on a GOP site), the R's voted for the item and the D's against.

    Minutes from Committee meetings for the 2005 session aren't available yet. If it's anything like other documents, they aren't available until a year after adjournment.

    I have the feeling that the disagreement on this had not to do with the 65% number, but with specifics of the bill. It could be that Dems wanted to add to the list of items that would be included in the 65%. It's hard to tell. But it would be nice to hear from Dems that were in the Committees that heard this what the deal was, why they voted no, etc.

    It ended up in the budget committee, so it could have been that it failed there because Dems wanted a stable amount of funding for schools first, then require the 65% number.

    Rules Committee:

    Kate Brown, Chair Ted Ferrioli, Vice-Chair Jason Atkinson Charlie Ringo Frank Shields

    Budget Committee:

    Kurt Schrader, Chair Margaret Carter, Vice-Chair Alan C Bates Richard Devlin Avel Gordly Betsy Johnson Frank Morse David Nelson Ben Westlund Jackie Winters

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni, Could it be that the teacher who told me, "that the unions own the Democrats, and we also own the Governor", was correct and this is another example?

    Good luck with your surgery.

  • (Show?)

    Bailie--

    No, I doubt it. Unions are having less and less impacts on elections now than they used to. They're still pretty big in races like President, but not near as powerful at the state level. I'm not a memember of a union, nor have I ever been. So I'm not protecting myself. And none of my family are in unions as far as I know.

    This is a big reason why we need to go to having sessions every year as opposed to every other year. In even years they can work on problems like the education system, corporate taxes, ridiculous deductions, etc. Then we can get some meaningful work and discussions on these topics. But right now they just don't have adequate time to really work on stuff like this.

    We also need a legislature that is more open and has information more readily available. It is ridiculous that printed records, minutes, etc. aren't available until a year after the session ends.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    You say, No, I doubt it. Unions are having less and less impacts on elections now than they used to. They're still pretty big in races like President, but not near as powerful at the state level.

    I think you are seriously mistaken on this assessment. Every state Senator and Representative I have spoken with acknowledges the influence of the unions in Oregon (as well as school boards and teachers).

  • (Show?)

    Oh, they definitely have some influence. Any large organized group that works on elections does. But they don't "own" them by a long shot.

    I've been working on elections in Oregon since I moved here almost 5 1/2 years ago. Prior to that, I'd been working on elections in Texas since I was 12-- everything from school board to president. I've seen who is doing the donating, giving the volunteers, etc. The county I lived in was heavy in unions, as it included some of the largest oil refineries in the country.

    I've waded through hundreds of pages of contribution and expense reports.

    Unions are there, but not as much as you may think.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni, Just to keep this close to correct. You say, "And we're around $1,000 under the national average in per student spending."

    From Rankings and Estimates NEA Research June 2005:

    "Current Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools Per Student, 2003-04" Oregon ranks 28th at $8,575 and the U.S. average is $8,807.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Hey Bailie. I once had a drunken lunch with a future governor of Texas who was born on third, but thought he hit a triple. He even grabbed the waitress by the arm. Twice. Ouch!

    His name was W and he says HOWDY to all of your imaginary friends whom you quote so often.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Hey Bailie. I once had a drunken lunch with a future governor of Texas who was born on third, but thought he hit a triple. He even grabbed the waitress by the arm. Twice. Ouch!

    His name was W and he says HOWDY to all of your imaginary friends whom you quote so often.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks. I hadn't seen the 2003-04 numbers. In 2002-03 we were almost $1000 below the national average. That was from a study conducted by the U.S. Census. They released the 02-03 numbers in March of this year. That study showed that Oregon had slipped 12 notches on the ranking to #31 in just 3 years.

    Census figures show that the national average was $9,244 per-student. Oregon spent $8,285 per student that year.

    From the Statesman Journal:

    "The Census also measures school spending based on citizens' income levels. That reflects peoples' ability to pay taxes, and, to some extent, variances in the cost of living.

    "By that measure, Oregon also slipped nearly a dozen notches. It went from the 28th-highest spending state in 1999-2000 to the 39th highest in 2002-03.

    "By either measure, Oregon ranked among the bottom-fifth of the states when it came to instructor salaries in 2002-03, Census figures showed. But the state paid some of the highest amounts among the states for instructor benefits. That reflects Oregon spending on health insurance and pension benefits."

    The per student numbers are often not "firm" until 2 years after the school year-- so the 03-04 numbers are not necessarily accurate until 2006. That's why so many of the other studies are on the 02-03 numbers.

  • Aaron (unverified)
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    Bailie and Jenni,

    The Measure History record you provided indicates that there was no hearing on SB 1065. It was introduced late in the session (5-17), after the Senate Education Committee had closed, and was therefore assigned to Rules for a policy hearing. The record shows that the bill died in Rules. Thou it states that it was referred to Budget.

    Bailie:Do you know if this was shot down by the Democrats? I personally think that the simple (and possibly true) answer to your question is that the bill seems to assume that a host of large, complex issues can be resolved with a simple solution, i.e. a mandate with an arbitrary number

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Aaron, Thank you for the response.

    You say, "I personally think that the simple (and possibly true) answer to your question is that the bill seems to assume that a host of large, complex issues can be resolved with a simple solution,"

    I am assuming that you meant "cannot" be resolved. If that is what you meant, I agree. Whether it was Democrats, or Republicans, or the process that derailed this bill, there is more that needs to be resolved.

    Do you have input on Oregon K-12 funding? It seems as though there are very few who are interested in solving the dysfunctional funding process in Oregon.

  • Aaron (unverified)
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    Bailie,

    HB 2858 and 3498 are good starts--thou I would like to see a floor and ceiling on the equalization equation for school funding that Measure 5 deals with.

  • LT (unverified)
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    SB 1065 summary says Directs school districts to expend minimum specified percentage of moneys received from State School Fund and local revenues on expenses related to provision of classroom instruction.

    It is legitimate to ask why it was not introduced until May and how "expenses related to provision of classroom instruction" would end up being defined in actual practice.

    If district management was not being honest about the amount of reserves, was giving the Supt. a "bonus" while saying there was not enough money to continue to employ elementary music teachers, or in some other way had lost the trust of the local citizens, then this might have been a solution or might not depending on how it was implemented.

    But I am always suspicious of anyone who claims the authors of either legislation or ballot measures are not responsible for their own actions--their enemies are always at fault.

    Seems to me at least some of the sponsors have proved to be media savvy in the past, so the fact it didn't get much publicity and wasn't introduced until May should not be blamed on those who don't belong to the political party the sponsors belong to.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    <h1></h1>

    So many bull's-eye comments, reading through them bagged so many linking ideas I was overwhelmed at the work it takes to touch 'em all. I wish overwhelm came with overdrive into overproduction; alas, over ...

    Maybe that means I took Becky's comment most to heart, and so considered what the shape would be of "an in-depth paper in language the everyday person could understand explaining what is going on ..., goring whatever ox needs to be gored," [re-set] "Really, what is going on? (By) Someone who isn't politically biased." That would be a long paper. It's not the language, it's the length, I think, that loses people. Or rather, where people get lost.

    One short simple summary that explains it all, for the brevity bongers: paulie had the whole magilla in few words -- more business => more employees => more taxes => better schools -- the growth cycle for the GO-WO argument, Grow Our Way Out. However, when today's dynamic of spin cycling meets the growth cycle, taxes go to legislature line items and do NOT come out in schools, better or otherwise, and instead come out in subcontracting out government to private contractors, or abating business property taxes, or recruiting business into the area -- in short, circuit, more taxes goes=>back to more business and never gets to schools, in today's operating matrix, and that's the vicious cycle to break as part of 'fixing all the problems.' Maybe put 'more schools' first, ahead of business and feeding into it, and go through the cycle, and at the end more taxes circles around to start 'more schools.'

    And, caustic for annoyance, a smack down on Bailie's damn question: Why should Oregon teachers be individually compensated greater than similar employees of almost all of the other states? Because THE OTHER STATES are BEHIND US ! The lead dog sees opportunity ahead, not butts. When you run in front get used to the vista. NO, WE'RE NOT THERE YET.

    <h1></h1>
  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Tenskw,

    You say, "NO, WE'RE NOT THERE YET." You are correct. Unfortunately, we are not closing the gap on academic results either. How do you feel that the other states are "behind us"? Oregon K-12 has serious funding problems, and it is not due to lack of funding. Oregon's "expenditures per student" have been greater than Washington for every year since 1990. Yet, Washington has surpassed Oregon in most measured K-12 academic results.

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    I agree with Bailie. The statistics are grounded in reality and have real meaning in the education discussion.

    Most educators want more money. But increases to our $800,000,000,000.00-plus national education spending don't resonate with taxpayers, partly because we have huge economic problems as a nation. Higher corporate taxes are more doable when the corporations are winning on the world front. But many of our corporations are losing global market share to competitors. Just in Corvallis, Hewlett-Packard has cut employment from about 6,000 to much less than 4000. General Motors may not survive in its present form. Boeing is under intense pressure. The health care cost problem, retirements problems industry-wide, and soaring energy costs can't be easily overcome.

    We may all deserve generous incomes. If so, the economy must generate the means to pay for the generosity. The evidence is that our economic base is badly overstressed. Better allocation of education dollars, as Bailie suggests, is a sound, practical step to getting all that we can from our limited economic resources.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    <h1></h1>

    Both of you obsess the price of everything, void of the value of anything. Dollar numbers do not represent the qualitative value of public education and test scores do not represent it either. Connecting dollars in with scores out builds a fallacy of logic and reason.

    (Let me restate that a bit: Dollars or test scores misrepresent the qualitative value(s) of public education.)

    Common sense knows efficiency is important to measure in the bangs for our collective bucks. It is the only measure some writings consider. For the easy idea of what else is involved, ask yourself this, (let's use your data): Would more money or higher scores, or less money or lower scores, along the way, have changed anything at all or matter at all, to your active participation here, now, with your life today wherever you sit, reading what others have written and writing what you have on Blue Oregon?

    Your answer, I expect, is that your sense of the value of your life being able to read, write, and compute, would not be significantly different if different amounts of dollars had been spent during your school days.

    My answer is that the purpose in education is by far the most important measure of value. I see two purposes in public education, and I think either one of them has more important value than is carried in accounts of dollars and test results. That is, your individual purpose in education, meaning the attitude you went to school with. And the collective purpose, meaning what the village intends its public education nourishment to raise in its children, (the attitude the school went to you with).

    Discussing and designing those currents -- one's childhood situation and the community circumstances around -- effect public education as better or worse. It is those currents (personal, social, economic, political, et cetera maybe), that we can build, that (our) education builds, (or changes, or unbuilds), that mostly determines whether dollars going in are inefficiently wasted or managingly leveraged in the process toward getting test scores coming out. It is not how many tax dollars are spent. It is what they are spent for.

    That's what our community water-cooler conversation should be about, because it matters because in that communication is where the power is to build (change, unbuild) public education. When you don't get off it, when your give and take in communication has only one handle, (i.e., 'dollars' or 'taxes' and 'accountable results'), then we can not get on to the material conversation. About opportunities of individual students in individual families. About the responsibilities of and for civic participation, (sort of 'local citizenship').

    And to keep this short I am going to leave it at that, although I am leaving out a lot and so there's failing in it. I think what I'm saying rephrases what T.A. Barnhart's posted: 'Counting dollars damn it ain't cutting it, because public education is not working.' 'Not here or anywhere else in the country,' carries on the theme in many comments. I'm saying we are capable (because we are educated enough to be here) of enacting measures besides dollar appropriations for public education, for building brains. Literally.

    One back-to-you, over: Where does the $800 billion come from? I hesitate to ask, it is very suspicious. Compare, please, for instance, with the current federal appropriation in the Dept.of Educ., which I think is between 50 and 100 billion dollars.

    <h1></h1>
  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Tensk,

    You sum up basically with your statement, "It is what they (dollars) are spent for."

    That is exactly my point. Oregon has chosen (mistakenly, in my opinion) to compensate a relatively few K-12 employees at high cost, rather than an adequate number at a lower cost. Oregon (and very few other states) does not have the economic wherewithal to compensate an adequate number of K-12 employees at the 8th highest compensation in the U.S. It is that simple.

    I am not proposing to cut any resources from K-12 education. I am proposing to significantly slowdown the increases of individual compensation, so we can have more K-12 teachers, complete school years and full programs. If this does not happen, Oregon will suffer greatly. The last data (June,2005, page 23*) from NEA showed only six states with a higher "Percentage Change in Average Instructional Staff Salaries, @002-03 to 2003-04". Again, this just represented salaries. If Oregon's highest rated benefits package were include this comparison would be more dramatic.

    The quantitative discussion of K-12 education always, necessarily precedes the qualitative discussion. Qualitative changes will always take place within the context of available revenue. For the last 20 years, Oregon has created a destructive process of allocating revenue. Oregon students are now paying the price for these very poor decisions.

    • http://www.nea.org/edstats/images/05rankings.pdf
  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    <h1></h1>

    (I wish I'd said at the end of the prior comment, instead of "building brains": 'assembling brains.' On second thought. Because 'assembling brains' shows the right is established in Freedom of Assembly. And it was thematic reprise, thinking the community's purpose in public education is assembling brains; an individual's purpose in pubic education is building brain.)

    I came back to say that, and found back-at-you back at me. Already. Well, there you go again. Listen: The. Number. Mumbo. Jumbo. Don't. Matter. Here.

    Let's grant 'quantitative analysis precedes the qualitative ones,' but I don't see that that's necessarily natural. But, okay, say so. Do it and move on. We saw your quantitatives. End it, at some point, or you never proceed to qualitativivizations.

    I reject as lifeless the invention of: "Qualitative changes will always take place within the context of available revenue," as if it were a discovery, again, of nature or 'natural law.' Not just reject it, but I insist the exact opposite is natural law: Every quality measure only exists outside of, and only changes outside of, considerations of and measures of cost.

    Let me repeat that in a different voice. "You never count your money, when you're sitting at the table, there'll be time enough for counting, when the dealing's done." When you're playing, you're not counting money. When you're counting the money you're not a player. The 'play' here, the 'game,' is discussion of designs of public education.

    Now, all of that aside, (whether or not ways and means of public education are paramount over who's and why's), the reason your numbehrrea doesn't matter here is because it can't do anything here. You lashing those numbers on everyone's eyesight, (and I say your picayune statistics are pains to a photographic memory), is not going to get your budget passed. LT says the same thing: Put it on the ground. Take your numbers, get your butt in committee, and go right ahead and enact them. Ain't gonna happen. And none of us here can enact them for you, so stop hitting us with them. Numbers. Don't. Matter. Here.

    Supposedly, you could lay out some ideas and numbers, or numbers if that's your only idea, and as a result change or ally the votes of readers here. And all those votes working alike would enact the numbers your way. That's the view that I keep telling you ain't gonna happen. Mainly, because numbers are not ideas -- word of mouth politicking passes along vote-influencing ideas; there's no such thing as vote-influencing numbers. This, from a math major.

    Or, what was the quote earlier, likely aimed at you: Figures lie, and liars figure. Something like that? Voters here aren't persuaded that way. Ipso facto: Being here means being into reading and writing news and ideas. Your paparazzi flash cards and '50 States Rankings' are as meaningless as celebrity, influencing voters like who like Liars Larson -- 'classdoom speechers: the only news choice of illiteracy' -- keeping down with the joneses.

    Not only are you not near the community consensus, your frequent and irritating interferences confound it. You're spitting troll slobbers on the people gathering 'round. So much so it appears to be your intention, to sabotage everyone else from talking about and working out things you don't want them to talk about and work out. Again, see Larson.

    We 'get' the numbers. That's not the measure. There's enough money for anything that is a valued thing to put it for. So put up your values. Not your valuation.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Tens,

    You say, "You never count your money, when you're sitting at the table, there'll be time enough for counting, when the dealing's done." When you're playing, you're not counting money. When you're counting the money you're not a player. The 'play' here, the 'game,' is discussion of designs of public education."

    How that applies to collective bargaining and "Oregon School Funding" is interesting, because it doesn't. The topic of this post is "Oregon School Funding", which implies at quantitative approach as the major part of the solution. When ideas get ahead of the numbers, problems develop.

    Do you have any solutions, which have numbers involved (a "math major"?)? Or, is this primarily a critique on anyone who uses numbers to search for a quantitative solution?

    What specifically is your recommended solution? More taxes? A different allocation of revenue? Anything?

  • KahunaHwy (unverified)
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    Hey Tenskwat,

    I just looked up "verbose" in the dictionary and there was a picture of you. You could use a new sweater and a haircut and losing 15 lbs wouldn't hurt much either.

    If I ever see a t-shirt that says WHY USE 25 WORDS WHEN YOU CAN WRITE 2,500? i'm going to buy it for you for your birthday.

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    Re; "Both of you obsess the price of everything, void of the value of anything. Dollar numbers do not represent the qualitative value of public education and test scores do not represent it either," according to poster Tenskwatawa.

    No obsession here, just a healthy interest in the perennial claim that education has a funding crisis. In our society, money is an approximation of the value we place on scarce goods. It is the economic way in which each of us gets to vote on value. Other approaches exist. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," found widespread favor for many years. Its flaw was a disregard for human nature.

    There is much to say about education beyond dollars and the State Department of Education is a good place to express those views. They would like to hear from the public.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    Yes, that's my way: Re-allocation of revenue. I see a way that improves schools, probably with less public money -- I don't know; better schooling AND reduces the overall (total) tax burden. Some of the individual tax cost reduction is just traded off for sweat equity on duty. Most of the total tax reduction, though, is from removing one single lump: Dept.of Defense. Start with imagining zeroing it out. Gone. Then put back the negotiated necessities.

    It is everything. For example, removing DoD would make available -- overnight -- so much money and labor for schools they couldn't even waste it all. Removing DoD would proceed in phase-out stages over years, of course. An almost universal American reaction to the idea is to reject it out of hand out of habit, from programmming, and not even try once to imagine it, nevermind advance it or bring creativity to bear. The mindset programming devoted to military force as the only 'thought units' with which to plan international relationships, is so deep and engrained, that by now the other faculties in everyone's brain are nearly atrophied.

    I realize only a minority of us see it this way, think about it this way. My perception of it is fairly 'out there' as a result of work experience being the one doing the 'mindset programming' on people. Mixed with study experience of brains and minds and What is a thought? and How do people 'believe' something? I find everybody thinks such things, in various ways, in passing from time to time, and it (humanity) comes out with the entire spectrum of conclusions you can hear told. Leaving the individual results aside, notice everyone has an idea about it, (it: 'How does thinking work inside my head?'), everyone can do it -- can think about thinking, using themself as a model. So it is universal. So it is in human nature. ('Thoughts of thought' is also a specialty subject anyone interested can study extensively.)

    The simple gestalt, (where simple makes it more true, not less): Since inventing the bomb, and by the means of television's novelty since then, an ancient trick of elites enslaving labor with shackles of fear constricting the brain, has been inculcated more deeply in more percent of the citizenry, than ever in any other instance down through history. In real politick since 1950, there has been no threat to us, our sovereignty. There is no 'Wolf!' But it has been repeatedly said there is -- something to fear, ('teach children to fear their world'). Since 1950, there have been many situations ripe with the opposite of threat -- cooperation, interdependence -- and they have been repeatedly killed in the cradle. The simple gestalt is, (and everyone says so), Americans are dumb about real life, both beyond their noses and behind them. And what they do claim to know mostly is something someone else made up to tell them -- they don't 'know,' they only remember what they heard. (School, for example, tests recall of what the student is told, and does not test what the student knows.)

    Yet, for all the fear injected in our lives and thoughts, on-purpose premeditated by fear-injecters to enslave us to labor for them and for the narrative in which they are the protagonist 'hero,' still, even so, look around you and ask around and every 'normal' person says they know what peace means, they believe in peace, peace on earth. Why doesn't this thinking get out of people's heads when almost all other thinking has been beaten and bled out? A concept of peace is universal. A concept of militaristic aggrandizement is not.

    To show that: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, found ... (that) Its flaw was a disregard for human nature," is a thing we are told that someone made up falsely. In humans we meet and know, it is consistently present in their nature -- 'normal' people give as much as they can, 'normal' people take as much as they need. When we aren't forced to fear. See it especially in children, before they have been taught that self-assessment (abilities, needs) and cooperation in that, cannot work; before they are taught it cannot work, you often find them busy doing it.

    Was it Hobbes's 'state of nature' in which the human's first reflex at encountering another human was to kill the other? And Rousseau's 'state of nature' in which the human's first reflex on encountering another human was to identify with the other? Certainly there is malice and violence between people, but all by artifice and contrivance and arbitrary 'extenuating circumstances,' it is not the "first reflex." Hobbes's state of nature is wrong. That we give and that we take, each in our 'normal' unique manner, is what is mostly seen in regard of human nature.

    Which is all just my opinion.

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  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    Tenskwatawa asks "Where does the $800 billion come from?"... "...it is very suspicious."

    I had referred to a figure of $800 billion-plus. My data comes from the federal National Center for Education Statistics. "Expenditures for public and private education, from kindergarten through graduate school (excluding postsecondary schools not awarding associate’s or higher degrees), are estimated at $866 billion for 2003–04 (table 29)." http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/ My guess is that the expenditures in 2005 will exceed $900 billion, if spending growth is about five percent over 2004.

    Even the huge numbers shown underestimate total education-related costs to the nation, for a number of reasons.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    T.A., Obviously you have given this consideration.

    You say, "all of us are simply being crushed in a system that is pathetically, shamefully inadequate for one pathetic, shameful reason: Money."

    I agree completely with you, and that is why I have spent three years attempting to pinpoint the reason why we are now in this situation. I have given my reasons and solutions. I am surprised that the group of readers on this forum have not come up with any reasons or solutions, except mainly attacking those who have tried.

    Basically, we have two choices (perhaps others) for funding K-12 in Oregon: 1) Increase funding with greater taxation, and keep the existing business model. 2) Reallocation of existing levels of revenue and change the existing business model.

    I have made the point that the second choice, in my opinion, is the best for Oregon, given our deteriorating economic situation and the failure of our existing business education model. Oregon, historically, has funded K-12 education much better than most states.

    T.A. Barnhart (or anyone?), what are your specific recommendations? You say, "I'm sick of everyone's excuses."

    You say, "The poor teacher simply has no time to take care of his charges properly."

    Yet, the OEA, has consistently chosen for increasing compensation (to a very high level), rather than maintaining adequate number of teachers to comfortably fulfill the responsibilities for Oregon K-12. If our K-12 employees had the 20th highest individual compensation level (rather than 8th highest), your concerns about class sizes, band, chorus, arts, athletics etc. would immediately disappear.

    The problem is turning back the clock on these poor decisions of the last twenty years, that have brought us to our present "pathetic and shameful" condition that you have witnessed.

    I feel it is "pathetic" that the people of Oregon are bringing politics into a situation that should be devoid of a political solution. The fear of alienating special interest groups is the overriding factor in Oregon education decisions and that is "shameful".

  • Ed Dennis (unverified)
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    I am coming in late to the conversation - but I noticed some references to the so called 65% solution -- and that comes with some pretty serious questions that need to be looked at.

    One example: In Arizona early in the 65% process for them, leaders of the effort proposed leaving out 'special education' from the definition of classroom.

    For the full Oregon story, instead of some excerpted quotes on previsous posts on this see the link below...

    www.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2005/10/17/story8.html?from_rss=1

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Ed, I agree that it is too simplistic to set a manditory percentage. I also thank you for coming on board with this discussion, if only temporarily.

    I would think you would/could have considerable thoughts concerning the discussion of Oregon K-12 funding. Any suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated. I have spent a great amount of time over the last three years arriving at some specific conclusions about our situation unique to Oregon.

    Thank you.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie ruminates:

    "Basically, we have two choices (perhaps others) for funding K-12 in Oregon: 1) Increase funding with greater taxation, and keep the existing business model. 2) Reallocation of existing levels of revenue and change the existing business model."

    It is the "perhaps others" that is most relevant to me. I don't see this as a dyad consisting of either (1) raise revenue or (2) change existing allocation. There is at least one more option, which has been dismissed somewhat out-of-hand. Return funding to local districts as it was pre-Measure 5. bailie asserts that the problem "of excessive teacher compensation" traces back "20 years". If that were true, it would place the locus in 1984/85/86. I haven't seen any statistics that place this problem much before the passage of Measure 5. We sometimes forget the consequences of Measure 5. Class sizes were starting their inexorable creep upward just before Measure 5 passed. Some attributed this to voter "stinginess" in approving school tax measures. I never saw this "stinginess"; voters in my district routinely approved school tax measures. But what began to happen is that a great deal of this money didn't make it to the classroom. The teachers/unions saw this happening and started demanding that the money make it into the classroom or, failing that, into their pockets. If they were going to be asked to do more work with fewer resources (that weren't going to be provided no matter what), then they wanted their share of the action. Measure 5 totally changed the funding dynamic, but the real problem began just before M5, and M5 totally distorted the entire funding dynamic. CIM/CAM added to the disarray and it has gone downhill since then.

    I do not believe that the Legislature is in any position to solve this problem in a way that will please anyone. The school funding problem is uniquely local; locals should have the power to make decisions about funding IN THEIR DISTRICTS. While I want to see every child in Oregon get a decent education, I don't give a donkey's dong about how that is paid for anywhere but where I'm living, working, and paying my taxes.

    On a related topic, we've debated PERS issues in another thread. I've argued that many of the PERS statistics cited have been overstated. It might interest you (and others) that PERS has finally released its latest portfolio of statistics (10/21/05). These are the clearest ever and should lower the volume of critics of the benefits actually received in retirement by PERS recipients and beneficiaries. If you want a copy of this, feel free to visit my blog , where I've posted a copy I scanned in. PERS will be posting an official copy next week sometime. I raise this here because PERS always factors into the school funding equation. It simply isn't as bad as people have reported it to be.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47, Thank you for your assessment. Points well taken.

    Just for discussion, a few comments. You say, "I do not believe that the Legislature is in any position to solve this problem in a way that will please anyone." Do you think there are collective bargaining laws, unique to Oregon, which have contributed to our situation?

    You suggest, "Measure 5 totally changed the funding dynamic, but the real problem began just before M5, and M5 totally distorted the entire funding dynamic." How do you reconcile this statement with Oregon's funding for the decade following passage of Measure 5. During that decade, Oregon funded K-12 ("expenditure per student") at a higher rate than did California, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and the U.S. average. I realize that funding changed sources, but our school district (as did many districts) embraced the changes as positive. "Equalization" also was embraced by many districts, also.

    You say, "I want to see every child in Oregon get a decent education." I agree.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47, Question on one of your comments about post Measure 5, "But what began to happen is that a great deal of this money didn't make it to the classroom.",

    I haven't heard this before you mentioned it. Where are you suggesting the revenue was misplaced? ODE, administration, classified?

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
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    Bailie, trust me . . . just let the teachers opt out of PERS and have every employee annually sign a paper acknowledging that they have been paid in full for past work (for ALL forms of remuneration). July 1 is the start of the typical budget year, which would be a good date. That's it. Nothing more is needed.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Where are you suggesting the revenue was misplaced? ODE, administration, classified?

    Check out what happened to SB 766--the one to rein in golden parachute retirement packages for administrators. Also the outrage that some district management hid the size of their district reserves from the citizens in their districts. School board majorities can change over such issues.

    Changes to PERS are good talking points, but statements like "just let the teachers opt out of PERS" implies that a blogger can read the mind of every teacher in Oregon. No group thinks alike. Not bloggers, not teachers, not members of any community or party or group.

    It is hard work to make a specific proposal and then get it adopted with public support.

    "We have a good idea, therefore it will work" is usually a sign of something far from implementation. People do have this habit of wanting to think for themselves.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    LT, You say "Check out what happened to SB 766--the one to rein in golden parachute retirement packages for administrators. Also the outrage that some district management hid the size of their district reserves from the citizens in their districts. School board majorities can change over such issues."

    I agree completely with your sentiments. While I sometimes emphasize K-12 teacher individual compensation, the data isn't limited to them. Teachers become the primary focus generally because their compensation is what moves budgets, primarily because of their sector size. The budget size (in a district) for teacher compensation is 50-60 percent, while administration is 4-6 percent of a district budget. In addition, the data for individual compensation for teachers is much more available and comparable. This is good and bad for teachers. Good, that the use the data to consistently play "leapfrog" in collective bargaining by comparing one district's compensation with that of a higher compensated district. Bad because, it is glaringly beginning to highlight the reason for Oregon's K-12 funding problems.

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    Mrfearless47 writes "There is at least one more option, which has been dismissed somewhat out-of-hand. Return funding to local districts as it was pre-Measure 5."

    Many have forgotten that pre-Measure 5 educators were dissatisfied with local funding. The September 1, 1998 Report of the Governor's Commission on School Funding Reform, titled "Small Steps to a Distrant Goal," had this to say. "Provide a stable, consistent and adequate funding system for elementary and secondary education...." It is clear that when Oregon was a strong local control state that educators were unhappy with the outcome of that funding practice.

    Then, the Governor's Commission report wanted a higher, not lower, percentage of K-12 funding to come from the state government. "There has been a longstanding goal in Oregon's school finance struggle to reach the 50% level of state funding for primary and secondary education (page 15)."

    Back then, before CIM/CAM reared its hydra head, "Oregon ranks second in the nation, and 10 percent of our graduates qualify for advanced placement in college (18th among the 50 states)."

    Even then, the report expressed concern over PERS costs (page 84)..

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    Correction, date of the Governor's report was 1988, not 1998.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    There is a good reason for state funding. Localities have widely divergent tax bases. Local funding means that rural areas and poor cities have bad schools. Courts have ruled that such disparities are illegal. They certainly lead to inequality of educational opportunity.

    Chech out some of Jonathan Kozol's writing, on educational opportunity.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie asks:

    "Just for discussion, a few comments. You say, "I do not believe that the Legislature is in any position to solve this problem in a way that will please anyone." Do you think there are collective bargaining laws, unique to Oregon, which have contributed to our situation?"

    No, I don't. Nothing I've seen in Oregon's public employee collective bargaining laws leads me to think that our situation is unique in any way. Keep in mind that PERS benefit levels have never been part of the negotiations. When the legislature agreed that the "pick up", first suggested by Gov Vic Atiyeh, would replace a significant salary increase the teachers and other public employees were bargaining for, the consequence is that PERS is pretty much "off the table". Yes, school districts have the option of renegotiating the "pickup" as a result of 2003's HB 2003; however, no district that I'm aware of has raised the issue. A few districts substituted "salary increases" for the "pick up", but these districts are relatively few. The Tiers themselves and the benefits offered by those Tiers have always bet set by the Legislature and are considered unilateral contracts - employees either "take it or take it". There is no option. Back in 1995, the Oregon University System gave its employees the option of "opting out" of PERS and into an "Optional Retirement System". The cost of the "optional retirement system" is identical to the cost of PERS Tier 2, so there are no real savings there, especially now that the reform legislation has passed.

    If you take PERS out of the mix, you're left with negotiating salary and health benefits. Given the cuts to the PERS system so far, it is unlikely that the teachers will move much towards accepting pay decreases. This leaves health benefits as the only area for negotiation. Given the degree to which teachers are exposed to illness on a daily basis (god knows, my health expenses were significantly higher because sick students would come to class all the time), I'm not sure whether this is penny-wise and pound foolish.

    So, the long answer to your "simple" question is that unless you want to propose eliminating collective bargaining altogether -- something I think is unachievable and undesireable -- you're really limited in what you can do statewide. That's why taking it back to the local level where districts know and unions know how much money is on the table. There is, IMO, far more transparency in budgeting locally than statewide.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    What you are suggesting (I guess), is that Oregon's compensation is locked into place until OEA, says enough. With the system locked, each year we will have larger classes, shorter school years and fewer programs and higher (and fewer) individually compensated K-12 employees. I can't believe that is what the people of Oregon want, or should have. Do we just wait for the system to implode?

    The big picture as I see it, is that there is an economic conflict between Oregon's ability to pay (which is going down), with the compounding rate of growth of individual compensation. The divergence can't continue.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie writes:

    "What you are suggesting (I guess), is that Oregon's compensation is locked into place until OEA, says enough. With the system locked, each year we will have larger classes, shorter school years and fewer programs and higher (and fewer) individually compensated K-12 employees. I can't believe that is what the people of Oregon want, or should have. Do we just wait for the system to implode?

    I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. What I am suggesting is that we need to be willing to reconsider local funding of the schools. Measure 5 took one form of economic disparity and replaced it with another. Poor school districts are better off now than they were before, but the larger and more affluent school districts have suffered dramatic cuts brought about largely by the inability of local districts to control local costs. There is no incentive for teachers to bargain salary and benefits away. There isn't any guarantee that the savings will remain in the district. There is no incentive for local districts to use the "local option" because it appears to be a "zero sum game". THIS is where the problem is. I'd be willing to bet that if you focused in on the precise point at which teacher compensation moved outside the zone of control (your basic allegation), you'd find that it coincides pretty closely with the passage of Measure 5 and the loss of local control in the schools. I haven't ever done the research to demonstrate this to be true or false, but it seems to me that if anyone has the data to show this, it would be you.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    Firstly, thank you for the PERS link (the October 2005 release)on your website.

    Just to clarify. You seem to be suggesting the complete dismantling of "equalization", which followed Measure 5. Is this correct? The poorer districts/students of Oregon become the "losers" and the affluent districts/students become the "winners"?

    You say, "There is no incentive for teachers to bargain salary and benefits away. There isn't any guarantee that the savings will remain in the district." What you are saying is, that it isn't "all about the children".

    You say, "I'd be willing to bet that if you focused in on the precise point at which teacher compensation moved outside the zone of control (your basic allegation), you'd find that it coincides pretty closely with the passage of Measure 5 and the loss of local control in the schools."

    You say, "I'd be willing to bet that if you focused in on the precise point at which teacher compensation moved outside the zone of control (your basic allegation), you'd find that it coincides pretty closely with the passage of Measure 5 and the loss of local control in the schools. The same coinciding timeline could be said for when the Democrats gained control of the office of Governor for Oregon. Or, when collective bargaining changed the dynamics of public employment.

    "loss of local control" due to Measure 5. I would like someone to define that assumption, because I have heard that concept discussed successfully from both sides. What specifically is "loss of local control due to Measure 5"? I have heard school board members on both sides of the discussion.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie writes: "Just to clarify. You seem to be suggesting the complete dismantling of "equalization", which followed Measure 5. Is this correct? The poorer districts/students of Oregon become the "losers" and the affluent districts/students become the "winners"?"

    Equalization assumes that costs per student are the same in each district. This isn't true, period. So, strict equalization is an abysmal failure and, yes, I believe it needs to be dismantled. "Poor" districts may be poor for reasons other than economics and the people in those districts have to make their own decisions to resolve those problems. I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived in their own district even though the money's there.

    "You say, "There is no incentive for teachers to bargain salary and benefits "away. There isn't any guarantee that the savings will remain in the district." What you are saying is, that it isn't "all about the children"."

    Don't put words in my mouth. I'm saying that the money doesn't stay in the district. The savings netted by negotiations simply mean that the district gets less money from the state. The savings go back into the general fund pot and are redistributed "equally" around the state. If teachers thought that every penny they gave up would stay in the local classrooms they might be more inclined to be flexible.

    You say, "I'd be willing to bet that if you focused in on the precise point at which teacher compensation moved outside the zone of control (your basic allegation), you'd find that it coincides pretty closely with the passage of Measure 5 and the loss of local control in the schools. The same coinciding timeline could be said for when the Democrats gained control of the office of Governor for Oregon. Or, when collective bargaining changed the dynamics of public employment.

    Umm. Democrats were in the Governor's mansion from 1978 - 1982, and again since 1986. Measure 5 passed in 1990. Collective bargaining changed the dynamics AS A RESULT of Measure 5. You've got the cause/effect mixed up there.

    "loss of local control" due to Measure 5. I would like someone to define that assumption, because I have heard that concept discussed successfully from both sides. What specifically is "loss of local control due to Measure 5"? I have heard school board members on both sides of the discussion.

    Loss of local control simply means that the money to pay for the schools comes from local tax dollars. Every penny raised for schools in a taxing venue stays within that taxing venue. School Boards know what their budget is at any given time and don't have to wait for Legislatures to slug out a basic school budget before determining what the working parameters of a budget might be for the next biennium. Curricular issues are decided locally except for larger statewide minima.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47, This information might be of interest, concerning "per pupil spending" by district. This is the latest breakdown I have. If anyone has more current, I would appreciate it.

    http://www.eiaonline.com/districts/Oregon.pdf

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    You say, "Equalization assumes that costs per student are the same in each district. This isn't true, period. So, strict equalization is an abysmal failure and, yes, I believe it needs to be dismantled. "Poor" districts may be poor for reasons other than economics and the people in those districts have to make their own decisions to resolve those problems. I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived in their own district even though the money's there."

    That is interesting. I am surprised that there aren't some "blue" Oregonians questioning that logic, as well as "red" Oregonians.

    Using your logic, I can understand why those Oregonians without health insurance and an employer paid retirement program, would question public sector employees. You say, "I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived" Why should Oregonians support your benefits, when many don't have what you have/had?

    Or (using your logic), why should people who have no children, pay taxes to support your (or anyone's) children to go to school?

    "Equalization" is good for Oregon. High individual K-12 employee compensation is not good for Oregon, when it inhibits the economic options for academic success.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    You say, "Equalization assumes that costs per student are the same in each district. This isn't true, period. So, strict equalization is an abysmal failure and, yes, I believe it needs to be dismantled. "Poor" districts may be poor for reasons other than economics and the people in those districts have to make their own decisions to resolve those problems. I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived in their own district even though the money's there."

    That is interesting. I am surprised that there aren't some "blue" Oregonians questioning that logic, as well as "red" Oregonians.

    Using your logic, I can understand why those Oregonians without health insurance and an employer paid retirement program, would question public sector employees. You say, "I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived" Why should Oregonians support your benefits, when many don't have what you have/had?

    Or (using your logic), why should people who have no children, pay taxes to support your (or anyone's) children to go to school?

    "Equalization" is good for Oregon. High individual K-12 employee compensation is not good for Oregon, when it inhibits the economic options for academic success.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    You say, "Equalization assumes that costs per student are the same in each district. This isn't true, period. So, strict equalization is an abysmal failure and, yes, I believe it needs to be dismantled. "Poor" districts may be poor for reasons other than economics and the people in those districts have to make their own decisions to resolve those problems. I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived in their own district even though the money's there."

    That is interesting. I am surprised that there aren't some "blue" Oregonians questioning that logic, as well as "red" Oregonians.

    Using your logic, I can understand why those Oregonians without health insurance and an employer paid retirement program, would question public sector employees. You say, "I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived" Why should Oregonians support your benefits, when many don't have what you have/had?

    Or (using your logic), why should people who have no children, pay taxes to support your (or anyone's) children to go to school?

    "Equalization" is good for Oregon. High individual K-12 employee compensation is not good for Oregon, when it inhibits the economic options for academic success.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie asks:

    Using your logic, I can understand why those Oregonians without health insurance and an employer paid retirement program, would question public sector employees. You say, "I shouldn't have to pay to help them out when my own children get deprived" Why should Oregonians support your benefits, when many don't have what you have/had?

    First, my benefits were promised me when I began work. It was a "take it or leave it contract". I accepted the terms, delivered my full performance for the entire time I was under contract, and now expect the parties that made the offer to deliver on their end of the bargain. After all, I did what was expected of me? Why is it unreasonable to expect that the other party to the contract deliver what is expected of him.

    Second. With local funding, I get a say in how education is funded locally, as do people without children in the schools. We live and die by local funding decisions. If the schools are poor because people keep turning down tax levies, then one doesn't have to look beyond the local district for answers. Now we just blame the state and say, "throw more money at us, we're drowning". Again, you forget that I'm not advocating for MORE school funding; I'm advocating for more local control of the budget. I don't want to get into the compensation question in large part because I don't see it as resolveable until local districts regain complete control of their budgets, including the ability to keep funds ALL funds saved in the district.

    So, color me "out" as far as the teacher compensation question is concerned. Let's get rid of CIM/CAM, let's get rid of NCLB and let's get rid of the part of Measure 5 that puts the state into the business of running K-12 education (into the ground, AFIAC). When we get those off the table, then I think there'll be some basis for a productive discussion of how to finance schools at the local level.

    Finally, you note: '"Equalization" is good for Oregon.' I just plain disagree with this assertion. Show me the evidence where this is "good" for Oregon? Show me where $10 spent in Portland buys the same amount of anything as $10 in Cottage Grove.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47, Thank you for your opinions.

    You say, "I don't want to get into the compensation question in large part because I don't see it as resolvable until local districts regain complete control of their budgets, including the ability to keep funds ALL funds saved in the district."

    I guess that is fine, I think we will have a bankrupt (in many ways) K-12 system before your suggestion becomes reality.

    You say, "So, color me "out" as far as the teacher compensation question is concerned." You are not alone with that thought, most of "pro-education" is thinking along with you, and has been for the last 20 years.

    You say, "Let's get rid of CIM/CAM, let's get rid of NCLB. I agree.

    You say, "Show me the evidence where this is "good" for Oregon?" It is "good" that all students in Oregon have an equal opportunity to experience the same level of K-12 education. After all, shouldn't K-12 education "be about the children"?

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    bailie asks:

    You say, "Show me the evidence where this is "good" for Oregon?" It is "good" that all students in Oregon have an equal opportunity to experience the same level of K-12 education. After all, shouldn't K-12 education "be about the children"?

    Of course it is "about the children", but you miss my essential point. Why should it cost the same to educate a student in, say, La Grande as opposed to North Portland or Hillsboro. This is like saying that teachers in La Grande should earn exactly the same as their counterparts in Portland (or the reverse). Education costs are driven by local costs - size of district, land costs, transportation costs, material and supply costs, condition of physical plant, demographics of the workforce, ease of recruiting and retention, demography of the school district, etc). Again, why, in principle, should we expect that $10 spent on a Portland student should go as far as $10 spent on a student in the La Grande school district? This, to me, is the central flaw of "equalization". Is isn't about spending absolutely equal amounts per child. It's all about spending relatively unequal amounts per child. School equalization formulas are a grand hoax.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    I understand your point, but in the "equalization" formula, much of your concerns are factored. There great differences in compensation, also. http://www.osba.org/lrelatns/salary/0304smap.pdf

    Some of our counties have double-digit unemployment and very little economic base. "equalization" is very important for them.

    Your $10 example does not seem to hold up as a problem in the "equalization" formula. Out of 198 school districts Portland District 1J is 63rd in "Per-pupil spending". Almost all of the districts ahead of them are aberrations for size of district. "Equalization" is not about spending "the exact" amount per student.

    http://www.eiaonline.com/districts/Oregon.pdf

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    This is a very good illustration of my position on Oregon K-12 funding. We have a funding problem that is trying to ignore economic reality. This is very good.

    http://www.registerguard.com/news/2005/10/25/ed.col.bozievich.1025.p1.php?section=opinion

    Governments can keep up with cost of labor

    By Jay Bozievich

    Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    As Lane County contemplates how to increase revenue to support public safety, it is time to discuss how to achieve fiscal sustainability for our public agencies here in Oregon. Missing from these discussions is the root cause of the current instability - the overheated growth in the cost of labor to fulfill the missions of these agencies.

    Labor - that is, salary and benefits - accounts for the majority of spending by public agencies. More than 80 percent of the spending by school districts is for labor. Lane County's personnel expenses amounted to 60 percent of its general fund budget. For public safety, labor costs are more than 64 percent of the budget.

    Unfortunately, this category of expense has been the fastest growing for governments over the last decade and is projected to continue as the fastest growing. This contributes to the projection that Lane County's expenses will increase at a rate of 6 percent per year. Similar rates of spending growth are forecast for local school districts, municipal governments, community colleges and state government.

    Yet revenue is projected to grow just 3 percent per year, creating a structural deficit for all levels of government in Oregon.

    First, let's understand why public labor costs are increasing at twice the rate of inflation. The first contributing factor is the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS.

    PERS charges public agencies a percentage of payroll to pay for the benefits promised by the system. That rate has gone from 8.88 percent in fiscal year 1998 to a whopping 20.72 percent, projected for fiscal year 2006 for Lane County. The PERS Board is projecting another 4.5 percent increase in fiscal year 2007.

    The second contributing factor is health insurance. Lane County projects double-digit growth rates in the cost of providing health insurance to employees.

    If the employees of an agency file claims for more money than the insurance company charged in premiums, then the insurance company will charge a higher premium the next year in an attempt to break even. And if the agency pays all or most of the premiums for the employees, then the agency will bear the costs of the increase.

    Currently, most public agencies pay a high percentage of the premium costs for health insurance. And the plans usually require low co-payments and have low deductibles. Therefore, employees don't see the impact when they make heavy use of health insurance and spur subsequent premium increases.

    Finally, many public employees work under union contracts. Nonunion employees, such as managers, often have their pay and benefits linked to the union contracts in some manner.

    Many of these union contracts are set up with pay-grade steps. Employees are moved up to the next step of the ladder for every year of experience they have until reaching the top rung.

    These steps can bring pay increases as little as 1 percent to as much as 3.75 percent. The steps are automatic annual increases.

    Union contracts also include cost-of-living adjustments on top of the step increases, usually creating automatic annual raises well above the rate of inflation.

    So, to review, we have base salary rates that increase more quickly than the rate of inflation. We have health insurance premiums rising at double-digit rates. And we have PERS rates well over 20 percent of base pay and increasing.

    Is it any wonder that the cost of government is increasing at 6 percent or more when labor is such a high percentage of government budgets?

    The growth of total personal income in Oregon just exceeds 2 percent. So the source of revenue to offset the cost of government is growing at a one-third the rate expenses are increasing. Even if we increase the percentage of the income taken to support government, that amount will still grow more slowly than expenses unless we do something about the growth of expenses.

    To restore balance, we need true reform of the PERS programs. Health insurance should return to a system that encourages healthy choices while covering catastrophic care. Public employee contracts need to be structured to promote performance, rather than delivering automatic pay increases.

    If we truly wish to have fiscal sustainability for public safety, education and other government services, then the elected officials and public employees of Oregon must be willing to work together to resolve the ever-increasing cost of public labor.

    Jay Bozievich is a free-lance writer, public employee, PERS participant and an elected official in Lane County.

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
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    LT,

    "let the teachers opt out of PERS"

    should read

    "let the teachers individually opt out of PERS"

    My mistake.

    The picketing folks in Sandy, or at least the tier-three PERS members among them, might be ready for a visit from me, the new labor organizer -- for tier-three only. You see, union rights do not perfectly overlap with OEA's rights.

    Will there be a camera to capture the moment when I get pushed to the ground? I will need that evidence, so as to put it to good use.

    pdxape.us Associated Portland Educators

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