Nov. 7th could be the start of a great day for Oregon

Chuck Sheketoff

Bake_sale_poster_1Over my desk, there’s a poster dating back to the late 1970s that reads, “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

Unfortunately I have not been able to retire the poster: schools have not been adequately funded for quite some time. Under Measure 5 in 1990, voters shifted responsibility for funding K-12 education from local property taxes to the state. The final straw that led many communities to create school foundations in the 1990s was the failure of the Legislature and voters to step up to the plate after Measure 5 passed.

The cost of our country’s military today is an important concern, but today I am setting my sights on things that are more in the control of Oregon voters and the people we elect to represent us in Salem.

It will be a great day when schools don’t need school foundations and public funding is adequate to provide every child, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances, the resources to succeed in school, from pre-K through higher ed.

School foundations and similar local funding efforts are nothing for the state as a whole to be proud of; their existence represents the failure of the public to support schools in the post-Measure 5 environment. Why should kids have to hold bake sales, sell wrapping paper, or hawk entertainment books and candy to get a decent education? Why should they have to see their “McTeacher” working behind a McDonald’s counter to support a school program that their community should be funding?

It will also be a great day when the Legislature and voters put the “income” back into the corporate income tax and end the great corporate tax shift. Thirty years ago, corporations paid about 18 percent of Oregon’s income taxes. Today they pay only about 6 percent. That’s one of the main reasons why our children start their school year as hucksters for school foundations and parent-teacher groups. If corporations paid their fair share, students could focus on education, not on worrying whether they will raise enough to cover the gaps.

It will be a great day, too, when candidates for public office stop their nonsensical calls for reducing or repealing the best player on Oregon’s income tax team, the income tax on capital gains, while at the same time claiming they are “the education candidate.” Any student of the income tax on capital gains knows that the proposed reduction primarily benefits the wealthiest of Oregonians, and would hurt schools and other public services while doing nothing to improve Oregon’s economic climate.

It will also be a great day when the legislature and voters direct our state to behave like any responsible business or household and save unanticipated revenues for the inevitable economic rainy day. The personal and corporate kickers make no sense and rob Oregonians of the opportunity to prepare for the next economic downturn. We should convert both kickers into a rainy day fund.

And, finally, it will be a great day when voters reject politicians who support tax and budget policies that undermine education and the other public structures that Oregonians rely upon each day. Oregonians need leaders who recognize that our public structures are part of the economy and that the economy is dependent upon a healthy public sector. Voters should laugh off the ballot those politicians who make the patently bogus claim that cutting taxes pays for itself or that government spending on crucial investments like schools and health care is bad for the economy.

November 7th could be the start of a great day for Oregon. The votes we cast won’t force the Air Force to hold a bake sale, but they could move us toward a better future for our schools, health care, public safety, and the other public structures Oregonians value.

Ocpp_final_1 Chuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.   
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  • KISS (unverified)

    At an average of $45,000.00 and health benefits that most people have not and a retirement program to kill for; and all for a slave driving 175 or less days of work.Oh the shame of it. If all the taxes collected in the state were to given to the school districts they still would want more. At one time I had close hand on how the schools would spend money and it was disgraceful how Portland Public schools would buy the best and most expensive products when cheaper and as good generics were available. Audits of proficiency? Not on school districts. Just a better way to whine and wring those hands.

  • IndependentAndy (unverified)

    Chuck, while I agree with the sentiment behind your poster regarding our government's priorities, there is only one problem with that phrase - the schools will NEVER have enough money...they always come asking for more. Until we can free the school system from the iron grasp of the teachers unions and introduce incentives for acheivement, competition, and common sense, we'll continue to spend ourselves into oblivion on education without a whole lot of results.

    I agree, I don't think we should vote for politicans who undermine our public institutions, but then again, I don't think we should support those who settle for the status quo and try to solve problems just by throwing more money at it. I agree with you - corporations should be paying more of the freight in this state - but we shouldn't just hand the money over to a system that is broken in the first place...we should fix it.

    I know I'll get flamed by all the union supporters hanging out here, and that's ok with me. I still remember the public school official who told me I was ruining my daughters life by pulling her out of her school. I'd love to find that administrator and tell her about my daughter's national merit status, 90% scholarship to a private college, and college degree with honors. Terrible what I did to her, isn't it?

    I can't see how putting all the power of government in the state in the hands of one party (See Washington, DC) will solve much of this problem. We need new ideas, not new money, to solve our school problems. Saxton certainly doesn't have them (gee, let's fire all the public employees and try to hire them back at a cheaper rate the next day - what an idiot!), and though I voted for him, I'm not convinced that Ted does either. So while you might be enthusiasitic, those of us in the lonely middle aren't too excited for election day to come except for the fact that we will be spared all those inane political commercials.

  • John Napolitano (unverified)

    In KISS' utopian world, Oregonians would not require a Master degree to teach, just a GED. This way we could pay teachers minimum wage with no benefits, turning them into real McTeachers (at least when it comes to pay).

    Here in the real world, last year my daughter's elementary school ran out of money for art supplies in October, and the local PTA had to start paying for them. In unrelated news, last year the budget for corrections in Oregon was increased by 33% over the previous biennium, to a record $1.2 billion.

  • KISS (unverified)

    John, how perceptive to read what I did not write. How sad your daughter cannot make it on 45 grand for 175 days of work. Elementary art, when I went to school: I had to furnish Paints, Crayons, scissors, paste, and cigar box, and a ruler...the school was obligated to give us butcher paper and occasionally craft paper for special projects. We seemed to have done well. So what are needs of todays wonder kids? What I find so amusing is that there are few requirements to teaching. Very seldom does a teacher teach the discipline learned in college.Math and science are not usually taught by someone who has a degree or even a minor in that discipline. A liberal arts degree with a year of learning a teacher's[ teaching procedure] certificate is all. In fact one can take education as the Major..but can teach math or science etc. etc. But even with all this main concern is with the administration...why has the administration never dealt with classroom disruptor's? In Japan 50 students in a classroom works well, why not here?

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    We need to improve our schools to meet global competition and to thereby protect our way of life. Students in China and India (and more recently Vietnam) are excelling in math, science, engineering, etc. Their colleges are turning out engineers and math Ph.Ds at a rate that is 10 times the US rate even when adjusted for per capita population differences. We need to attract well qualified science and math teachers to the public schools. To compete with private industry for the best science and math minds, the public schools may need to pay them twice what we pay English or Social Studies teachers, who are very plentiful. However, it is that sort of creative thinking that is very unpopular with the public employee unions.

  • (Show?)

    KISS: You are espousing half truths and untruths. All school districts in Oregon are audited by an outside group on a yearly basis. Check out your school district's compliance with Highly Qualified Teacher status and you will find that over 90% of teachers meet the standards. The vast majority of teachers have masters degrees. I am not going to argue the merits of teacher pay for you ( by the way the average contract is 185 days not 175 ) or benefits ( even if I taught full time I would pay around $400 a month out of pocket). My husband's employees pay 0 if single/couple and about $100 a month if they have dependents. You are right that I do have a good retirement that I hope will be there 20 years from now.

    My experience with people who spew this kind of rhetoric is that they think teaching is "women's work" and therefore inherently inferior. I mean, what intelligent person would want to spend their days with chikdren, right ? They also tend to be not as well educated and a little bitter about their own lot in life. If you don't have health and dental coverage, you are right- it sucks and its wrong that healthcare is treated as a benefit in this country instead of a right. I know its been suggested before, but if teaching is so easy, please sign right up. Why wouldn't you ?

    Like any large organization, there are good and bad aspects of the teacher's union but I believe the good still outweighs the bad.I would say that 95% of my colleagues work hard to give our students the best that they can with limited resources. And we are all for getting rid of the deadweight ( which is just as prevelant in the private sector) As sad as it is, yes, it is difficult for a teacher making 45K a year to do something extravagent, such as buying a first home. Checked out real estate lately ?

    As for the late, great Japanese education system; they too are struggling with some issues. The factory model that worked well for them (and us) in the past doesn't fit as neatly with the global economy now, which requires much more flexibility and quicker responsivesness. The mere breadth of skills needed is far greater than even 10-20 years ago. Of course the suicide rate for Japanese students isn't probably one of aspects of their system that we would want to emulate. They do however have a very homogenous society that reveres education, regardless of economic class. That is certainly not the case here. I don't need to be put on a pedestal but I do need parents who will back us up on discipline, turn off the tv, get a book or two and talk to their kid a little each day.

    I have never worked for an administrator who works less than 70 hours a week and most came in frequently on weekends. While there were districts that had administrative bloat in the 80's, that hasn't been the case for a mighty long time. We have a head principal and two assistant principals for 1000 kids and a staff of around 75.

    The best thing you could do to educate yourself KISS is to go volunteer in your local schools for a few hours each month. Seriously. Do it. I really believe it will challenge some of your assumptions and you may even find a few things to admire in public schools.

    In case you are worried that I have spent this time wasting tax dollars instead of teaching, I teach half time and today isn't my teaching day. I am grateful for my husband's private sector salary and benefits. If he was a teacher, we couldn't afford for me to teach half time.

    Now go call you local school and get in a classroom!

  • Garrett (unverified)

    KISS- Have you ever known a teacher? Do you know what their schedule is even like? Out of the 5 teachers I know every single one of them pulls between 12-14 hour days working. They get to school over an hour before the kids, they leave at around 5 or 6. Then they have to go home and eat or prepare food for their kids. Then they spend an hour or 2 after that grading papers. By the way do you really think they're making $45,000? One of my friends just got a raise. He's 33 and he's been teaching since he graduated college at 24. He is now making $37,000. Granted he has switched districts but lets not pretend that the average teacher actually makes 45,000. If our President would really like to invest in our schools maybe he should have rethought his Iraq policy and plunged our country into the greatest debt we've ever been in to raise our schools to be the best in the world instead of wasting it in Iraq. Last I heard our schools weren't even in the top 40 world wide. So KISS before you start railing on teachers salaries and why they get 2 months off maybe you should go pull a few months worth of 14 or 15 hour days for the same money they make and see if you like it very much?

  • howard (unverified)

    Whenever someone treats Oregon's public schools as heomgeneous we usually get garbage such as: "schools have not been adequately funded for quite some time"

    The reality of school funding in Oregon was more accurately described in a April 8, 2005 Oregonian article by Betsy Hammond: "STATE SCHOOLS CHIEF QUESTIONS LEVEL OF DISTRICT RESERVES."

    Betsy pointed out that "More than half of Oregon school districts ended the 2003-04 school year with more than 20 percent of their general fund money unspent"

    This to me is confirmation that there is not the "inadequate funding" problem in Oregon Public K-12 that some folks like to harp on. There are revenue and spending aspects to school district budgets. And the overspenders ought to clean up their acts.

    I am unsympathetic to those districts, such as Portland, that have been getting away with unsustainable spending, golden parachutes, underpopulated school buildings etc. enabled by bailouts, foundations and local option bond measures.

    There is a whole lotta truth that needs telling in the area of public school spending in Oregon.

  • KISS (unverified)

    The old suicide routine..Ah Huh. better check your social studies again Oh Ya, English, isn't your forte either "If he was a teacher" Try the word were. But again, you are a teachur. Hey Garrettt I knew a teacher that drove a Rolls what. Yup, I know a few teachers, they do work overtime..and are quite happy with the money they make. Again, another one that does not read...I said nothing about teachers. They make good money and I have NOT complained about that. I'm really tired of whining.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    KISS- You are simply a lost cause. You don't think or reason about anything so you just try and belittle people. Speaking of reading my name only has 2 ts. I really doubt you know a lot of teachers that are happy with the money they make.

    At an average of $45,000.00 and health benefits that most people have not and a retirement program to kill for; and all for a slave driving 175 or less days of work.Oh the shame of it.

    What I find so amusing is that there are few requirements to teaching. Very seldom does a teacher teach the discipline learned in college.Math and science are not usually taught by someone who has a degree or even a minor in that discipline. A liberal arts degree with a year of learning a teacher's[ teaching procedure] certificate is all. In fact one can take education as the Major..but can teach math or science etc. etc.

    How are those not comments about teachers? Read your own posts.

    Howard- You do make some good points. I will say this though. I have been spending a lot of time recently at Marshall High. Why does it look like it's being held together with duct tape if there is so much money in the school budgets? I understand mismanagement by the PPS board (Ron Saxton) but as much as I understand your argument I don't understand why you seem like you want to pass it on to the kids? The kids don't control the PPS board but they have to go to Marshall High where the same graffiti has been spray painted along the East side windows for the last 3 months and the gym looks like disaster victims have been living there for a month.

  • pat hayes (unverified)

    Hi folks:

    KISS, if you are tired of whining then I suggest that you stop whining. Rational discourse tends to reinforce rational discourse.

    At age 60 I'm still working in a truck shop as a mechanic even though I have a teaching certificate [shop!] and an advanced degree. My wife, on the other hand, went into the teaching profession at age 56 after 35 years as a waitress and bartender. Her initial reaction was extreme dismay due to the high levels of behavioral problems, low levels of parent interest and involvement and the staggering amount of bureaucratic paperwork. She commented that some of the kids and parents had behavior problems that would have gotten them 86'd from any bar.

    Salary??? about $26K for a 12 month contract with pretty decent benefits. Time worked??? Let's see, 10-12 days during the week, at least one 8 hour weekend day dedicated to reading and correcting papers, tests, etc. A number of nights and weekends with parent-teacher conferences both formal and informal. Countless hours with mainstreamed kids unable to keep up with the most basic work required. Oh, yeah....also the teaching to test for all the NCLB requirements. That extended summer time off?? Gimme a break. Advanced level classes to keep up in the field, advanced placement and tutoring for those kids who really believed in education and, of course, syllabus prep for the next year.

    KISS...please don't demean people who work long, hard hours just because you're unwilling to understand the complexity and challenge of their work.

    thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  • howard (unverified)


    Thank you for the kind remarks and the question: "Howard- You do make some good points. I will say this though. I have been spending a lot of time recently at Marshall High. Why does it look like it's being held together with duct tape if there is so much money in the school budgets?

    In reply to the question I can only suggest that the housekeeping and maintenance at each of the district's high schools be scrutinized. If some pass muster and some do not, the deficiencies are most likely the result of priorities at district or building level.

    As to your charge that I am "passing it (the financial pain) on to the kids, I strongly suggest that those who have been setting the spending priorities (dozens of people besides Ron Saxton) have been "passing the pain" on to the kids in the Portland district.

    The legislature sends money to each district according to availability. The budgetary incompetents have no right to demand blank checks to cover their ineptitude.

  • (Show?)

    KISS: You got me on the use of 'was' vs 'were'. Somewhere some lazy teacher helped you to recognize past and present tense. As for " The old suicide routine", its actually a rather contemporary routine.


    Maybe it's the long history of double-suicide being a noble solution to the dilemma of ill-fated lovers that permeates Japanese literature, or maybe it's the samurai tradition of committing ritual disembowelment (seppuku or harakiri) for the maintenance of honor as exemplified by what is perhaps the most popular story in Japan, the 47 Ronin, or maybe it is even the infamy of the original suicide-bombers, World War II's kamikaze pilots, but whatever the reason, Japan is considered to have a high suicide rate. However, in actual fact, for most of the twentieth century Japan's suicide rate was on a par with the European average. For the past ten years though the suicide rate has been rising, and is now among the highest in the world, but still less than some of the eastern European and former Soviet countries. Last year more than 34,000 committed suicide, an increase of 7% over the previous year, making suicide the sixth most common cause of death in Japan. Among young people, the suicide rate rose an alarming 22%. The most common method is hanging, and the most common day chosen is Monday. Men prefer 5 a.m., and women prefer noon.

  • Garrett (unverified)


    Good answer. I really doubt that the maintenace crew is the problem. Marshall is in a crappy neighborhood and has a large ethnic student enrollment. Considering Grant High and Lincoln High look pretty good but are roughly the same age I would assume that is because PPS is passing the buck on a school like Marshall. In fact on Sunday there were 2 guys at Marshall painting the yellow curbs at Marshall on their own dime. They were janitors there. If they are there this Sunday again I'll be sure to ask them if they are the reason the inside of the school looks like hell.

    I do still disagree that "budget ineptitude" should play a role in who pays for the terrible conditions some schools deal with. I graduated from a Utah high school 9 years ago and to be honest it was a terrible school district. My parents lived in an OK school zone and I did go to the other schools in our district for various reasons. I am shocked at the difference in schools here. Even in the rough areas of Salt Lake City (laugh all you want but they exist) the schools looked good. They even built a new one in the deepest of hoods in SLC. You do make good points that we shouldn't just throw money at the problem. That is one of the most messed up things that Portland has going for it. Schools like Jefferson, Madison, Marshall get SCREWED. Schools like Franklin, Grant and Lincoln get all the dough. Why is that? Because they have a good amount of rich kids going there?

  • LT (unverified)

    KISS--you make it sound like no teacher ever has to take another college class once they start teaching (or would you rather they work 50 weeks a year and still have to take college classes at night--impractical in many communities unless you are talking about online classes). Do you advocate year round school? Or paying teachers per hour? Why would the best teachers remain in Oregon under those circumstances--or do you think teaching is easy work anyone can do?

    More importantly, I'll believe you are serious about budgets and not just teacher bashing when you talk about administrator salaries.

    There is a local legislator who says no one should ask him about the fact our school district employs 3 administrators who all work in the personnel area (HR Director, Director of Employee Relations, Director of Employee Staffing)."Go ask the school board". There have been attempts in past legislative sessions to regulate the collective bargaining process (incl. what topics are legitimate topics for collective bargaining) but no one wants to talk publicly about administrator pay. Why? Because they are management and not labor? Because they have a good lobby group?

    Should those salaries -not to mention the same health benefits and retirement package as teachers- (public sector administrators are also public employees) be examined? Or are you one of those who says that if we went back 50 years before teachers were unionized all school funding problems would be solved?

    5 members of my family (in 3 generations) have been teachers in multiple states, incl. my aunt in inner city schools (retired in the late 1960s).

    A true discussion of school funding includes everything from the cost of transportation (esp. in geographically large rural districts), the cost of heating and upkeep for school buildings, the pay packages of ALL employees of a school district, incl. the school supt. and all other administrators.

    KISS, when was the last time you visited a school? Do you believe that if only teacher pay were low enough there would be enough money in the budget for fixing leaky roofs and other maintenance problems?

  • Randy2 (unverified)

    KISS lives in a different reality.

    Why do you suppose those who graduate with math and science degrees don't end up teaching in the high schools? Do you think that their degree provides them with more lucrative paying jobs than $45K for 175 days of contract work?

    And you want to, what? Reduce teachers' pay more?

    A former teacher, I find your nostalgia from the 50s touching, but society has, for most of us, changed in the last 50 years and so has the challenge for teachers.

    Saxton believes he'll find efficiencies? What he'll find are the same inefficiencies he saw when he was on the school board and did nothing about. Golden parachutes anyone?


  • KISS (unverified)

    How can you paranoids get it so wrong? I said the teachers salaries was not the issue, they are paid well, so be it. On going education? How about the paid sabbatical they get for a year? Why does every new school need a new architectural top drawer building. Can't the school district have a small, medium, large set of drawings and all buildings be produced at a great savings? Laidlaw does quite well in the busing business; is it cost effective? And still the proficiency reports are never done. Oh ya, 32 students were the norm in my day..we survived and somehow we became educated. My grandson is in a class of 300 in college and just somehow he has a 3.9 GPA.Let's just be honest schools are really warehouses for parents.

  • (Show?)

    Whatever. I know of no public school district in the state of Oregon that offers a leave of paid sabbatical for a year or even a week. Was this a college professor benefit ? Top tier neighborhoods with top tier schools and top tier property values believe that schools should be a centerpiece of their community and want it to be a building they can be proud of. That being said, new schools that are being built are much more efficient than they used to be. The manner in which they are designed recoup substantial savings in lighting, heating and cooling. Clackamas HS, opened in 2002, has been named one of the top 10 green schools in the country. Their district website has a section that details its design and savings. North Clackamas' current bond request includes building a new elementary/ new middle school that will share a common wall. This enables them to share the same electrical, tech wiring, heating and ventilation systems.It requires less land and actually gives them an extra playing field, which is in high demand in the community. It also reduces construction by approximately 7 months. This reduced the cost of the new middle school by about $2 million.

    30 students was the norm for many of us for a world that no longer exists. A large percentage of students dropped out of high school (still a problem) and most that graduated from high school were able to find jobs, particularily in the manufacturing and trades sector. These jobs paid well enough to support a family. A small percentage went on to college and an even smaller percentage graduated from college. That economy no longer exists and the necessary skill set is drastically different. That's fantastic that your COLLEGE aged grandson is doing so well. Of course it goes without saying that there is a world of difference between a 6, 10, 12, 16 and 19 year old student, right ?

    Interestinging enough, one of the big state audits last year was an investigation into whether or not transportation costs were being well managed. Certainly the increasing cost of fuel has been an issue. But the actual management practices were found to be very cost effective . (Not sure of the link but you can find online on the state auditing site.)

    Despite all the challenges of public schools, there are MANY wonderful ones out there. We are extremely pleased with the quality of the instruction our three children receive, even if we are not pleased with the lack of enrichment opportunities and the massive overcrowding.Besides having a great staff, our school has very supportive, invested parents who commit many hours and many dollars to our school. The downside of that is it penalizes less affluent schools and that is the weakpoint of school foundations. They are not even close to being a warehouse for parents. Seriously, KISS, go spend some time in your local schools. You don't even have to help anybody, you can call and request to just sit in on some classes. Go to a PTA meeting. Go to a school board or a SITE Council meeting.


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