A Perspective From A Teacher on 66 and 67

Deborah Barnes

Every day students in my broadcasting class get an opportunity to review headlines from news sources.  For them, this election has become a fascinating experience of watching adults debate their future.  Many of them, as high school students, ask thoughtful questions that tug at my heart.  They know not to ask my opinion on the issues.  I then have an opportunity to listen to them react to the stories that engage them in debate.  Many of those students, future news reporters, editors, camera operators, and anchors, are worried and would love the opportunity to debate this issue with each other and those on both sides of the issue.

I worry about them.  I worry about all of our students in Oregon.  What message are we sending to our young people? What they read and see and hear are adults debating an issue that will have a real impact on them.  What they are most worried about is whether or not there will be a football coach next year.  They want to know if they can sing in choir, or perform with the orchestra, or take part in a play.  They want to know if the ballot measures fail will they still have all of the opportunities they have today next year.

I'm hopeful that Oregonians will stop for a minute and think about those students and their dreams.  I hope voters in Oregon remember those moments they had in school and how important stability and choices were to them.  I hope the day after the election those students don't feel like the voters said they were not important enough to pay a little more for their education.

And, before the naysayers begin their attack, I did take a pay cut.  I do pay more for my health insurance.  I did accept the cuts necessary so the school year would not be even shorter.  I did it because I believe in those students.  Send in your ballots with a yes vote and tell the students in Oregon they have a right to a full school year with even more opportunities than you had when you were in school.

Comments

  • Darth Spadea (unverified)
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    What will happen if Measures 66 and 67 fail in Oregon?

    According to The Oregonian's Education Reporter Betsy Hammond: Unlike cuts to state agencies, which are decided by lawmakers, how public schools respond is up to 200 local superintendents and school boards.

    For many of them, voter rejection of Measures 66 and 67 would largely mean staying the course next school year. About two-thirds of school boards set their budgets for this school year low enough that they could get through 2009-11 without money from the proposed tax increases.

    Some of the state's biggest districts, including Portland and Beaverton, did bank on voters approving both measures. Both those districts have enough reserves to insulate students from any severe educational blows.

    It's hard to predict how a cut in state funding would play out in Portland schools next year because the district and the teachers union are still arguing over pay, benefits and number of teaching days for the current school year. The district has more money in reserves than it stands to lose in state funding, but officials are reluctant to burn through savings to pay for day-to-day costs of running schools, budget director Mark Murray says.

    Claire Hertz, chief financial officer of Beaverton schools, predicts her district would probably trim at least a few school days next year if the measures are defeated. But she says a larger-than-expected pot of money left over at the end of last school year will help cushion Beaverton schools from deeper cuts.

    Not great, but not the Armageddon everyone here predicts.

  • Noah Tingertu (unverified)
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    "I worry about all of our students in Oregon. What message are we sending to our young people?"

    Here's what I worry about: all the increased spending on public education in Oregon over the last ten years-- and how much of it was sucked-up by PERS and health care benefits that far exceed anything available to employees in the private sector.

    Oregon needs more bassackward thinking on education funding. Perhaps we can ramp-up the silly annual lottery promotion of "Scratch Its For Schools?"

    http://www.salem-news.com/articles/january302008/ocpp_joecamel_13008.php

  • Darth Spadea (unverified)
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    Agree Noah, they waste so much on beyond competitive public employee benefits and then wonder why they are short.

    It would be like me going wild at El Gaucho for dinner and then complaining to my neighbor that I can't afford groceries.

  • Mike M (unverified)
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    Deborah,

    Thank you for your comments.

    As you may be aware as the Betsy Hammond article above notes, there are quite a range of salaries, benefits and costs at the various school districts within Oregon.

    Some districts have higher salaries/wages than others. Some districts pay the benefits for their employees and sometimes for their entire families, while other districts expect the employees to pay a portion of the benefit costs. So there is no simple answer as to what is fair or unfair when it comes to education expenses. The only thing that is common across the state is the amount of money per student that is allocated to the school districts - it is the same across the state, with multipliers for ELL students.

    Some schools manage their budgets conservatively, and plan for contingencies, while others do not. There is much talk about rich and poor districts with regards to funding, but the equalization passed several years ago attempts to make sure each school starts with the same basic funding. Some schools have an earnest effort to get additional funding thru grants and even exercising the local option.

    What is not so easy to notice that each district performs differently, leading to hardship in some districts, and comfort in others. Sometimes there are shenanigans where ELL money might be allocated but used differently in each school. Teacher/student ratios might be distorted when some teachers are actually in temporary administrative roles, and never actually teach.

    Education costs are a large portion of the general fund budget, so are always set up by the legislature as being the most vulnerable when it comes to making adjustments. Most are unaware of the efficiencies that exist in some districts, so overall, the entire establishment is blamed when funding is debated.

    Oregon has started to audit districts in recent years, but from what I have seen thus far, there is little effort to share economies of scale across the state. That is too bad, because there are many good ideas out there.

    As you present the current budget issues to your student, I encourage you to also compare the funding within Oregon, to the funding levels in other states. You will find that Oregon funding per student is amongst the highest in the country. So just as some districts have figured out how to be more effective within the state, so have districts outside the state. And many of those outside the state also have longer school years.

    This is a worthy discussion with your students.

  • engineer (unverified)
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    Irrespective of how one votes on the ballot measures, I want to commend the poster "Mike M" for a well written response. Note that he does not resort to calling other posters names or trotting out the same old tired canards of "PERS-lazy government employees-bloated benefits-too much government-blah-blah-blah..." which has dominated this issue and hindered any sort of rational discussion between folks who may have different opinions but are interested in the facts. What a breath of fresh air!

  • Jim Houser (unverified)
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    Deborah,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. We have an active internship program at my company. One of the "unintended" consequences of our program is that at least 4 former top employees, who functioned as mentors to our interns, enjoyed their role so much that they have gone on to become instructors at either the high school or community college level. Despite the mythology to the contrary, in every case these employees took a significant cut in pay and benefits, except retirement benefits, to accept their new positions as teachers. I applaud your, and their, hard work.

  • Steve Marx (unverified)
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    "I worry about all of our students in Oregon."

    Especially after Ted increased education spending 20% in 2007 and it didn't make one bit of difference in the class room. So this tax increase won't make a difference either in the classroom experience.

    Ted really doesn't care about schools. Otherwise, they'd stop holding them hostage to raise taxes.

  • LT (unverified)
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    May I remind you antis that the most recent poll says young people (not defined by where they work or their income, just young people) support 66 & 67.

    These would be the same folks who saw the effect of Measure 5 and 47/50 budget cuts in their schools.

    Thank you Mike M. for this comment:

    "Some schools manage their budgets conservatively, and plan for contingencies, while others do not. "

    Would be nice if we quit hearing about how "the public schools" budget---given that individual school boards make budget decisions.

    Noah Tingertu ---when was the last time you were in a school? Or at a school board meeting? How many central office administrators does your school district have? Or are you only angry about teacher pay and benefits?

    Today's school kids will grow up. Some may opt for out of state colleges and settle elsewhere permanently. Others may choose to spend their adult lives here. Regardless of your rhetoric, you can't influence how today's teenagers view the world if you never meet any of them.

  • Oregon Leopard Party (unverified)
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    Well put Steve and LT. My sentiments exactly.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    Debra,

    I have a "thoughtful question to tug at your heart".

    Does your worry stay tugging at your heart when you think about the $250 million in lottery dollars heading to the planned Milwaukie light rail when all of it could be redirected to education? How about the many other millions spent on boondoggles you're supporting?

    Are you worried when you participate in the planning to divert millions from schools to fund Urban Renewal schemes for private developers?

    If any of your students check in here I hope they ask you the same questions.

    Does your worry turn on when your teacher's union spends millions every cycle electing and influencing politicians who then misappropriate revenue and undermine education under the guise of oversight and reforms?

    I wonder if non union teachers in public charter schools share your particular brand of worry.

  • Sherrilynn Rawson (unverified)
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    I appreciate folks' attempt at reasoned discussion. I would caution, however, that folks read carefully. What was it that Mark Twain attributed to Benjamin Disraeli? Something to the effect of: "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

    Note the juxtaposition in the Oregonian article here that is cited above (emphasis added):

    About two-thirds of school boards set their budgets for this school year low enough that they could get through 2009-11 without money from the proposed tax increases.

    Some of the state's biggest districts, including Portland and Beaverton, did bank on voters approving both measures.

    The Betsy Hammond article cited above cleverly elides together two different kinds of figures--number of school districts and total enrollment. Taken together, they can hide the magnitude of the impact of M66 and M67 passing or failing. For example, more than 50% of all students enrolled in public schools in Oregon are enrolled in just 15 of the over 200 districts throughout the state. If Portland and Beaverton, two of the top fifteen, did "bank on" the measures passing in their current budgets, then there will necessarily be a significant impact on the students there, who in those two school districts alone represent nearly 15% of the total public school enrollment in the state.

    Which is another way of saying, knowing which one third of the districts in the state didn't "set their budgets low enough" to sustain the severe impact of M66 and/or M67 failing would be pretty darned important in the discussion. How many students would be impacted is at least as pertinent (and I would argue more important) to the discussion as how many districts would be impacted.

    My .02, for what they're worth.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    This is interesting. I see Debra is announcing her pay cut just like Jeff did a few threaqds down.

    Is this the unions getting the word out to tell the voters they're rank and file are sacrificing too?

    The even more interesting part is neither Jeff or Debra shared the amount of their sacrifice.

    The unions must prefer that part not be too public.

    I asked Jeff with this point.

    That sounds sorta well and good Jeff but I didn't get exactly what your sacrifice is.

    What percent of a pay and/or benefits cut did your union agree to? Because there are certainly 100s of thousands of Oregonians who have had to take 100%, 50%, 30,20 and 10% cuts in pay.

    If your sacrifice comes in at around a 2.5% cut like some other public employees are saying is their sacrifice I'm not very touched by your story.

    Is it out of line to ask what your cut amounts to?

    If you're going to announce your sacrifice it seems only fair that you also mention how much.

  • Sherrilynn Rawson (unverified)
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    Richard:

    I don't know about Deborah, but twenty-two teachers and seven classified employees in my local school district took a "100% pay cut" in June, as you put it. A total of 51 positions were cut, which of course means higher class size, cuts to elementary PE for children, and more. Some cuts are quite tangible--the loss of your job, a cut in pay, a rise in the cost of health insurance. Other cuts affect one in many indirect ways, in the form of higher work loads shouldered by fewer employees.

    Each individual's experience will vary, of course, from that 2.5 percent cut you mention to a 100 percent cut. Regardless of the economic sector, though, it's fair to say that the recession has hit everyone, not limited to but certainly including educators.

  • (Show?)

    The 18% increase in the 2007 K-12 budget was the first substantial increase in funding since the commencement of Measure 5 implementation, when adjusted for inflation. Even then, due to the steep revenue decline, schools saw millions of dollars stripped in funding for the 2008-2009 school year. Schools laid off employees and some cut school days. To blindly reject funding as an issue is simply ignorant. On the plus side, students still demonstrated significant gains in reading and math. These measures aren't about what we can do to improve education and neither is Ms. Barnes post. Thank you for your service Ms. Barnes.

  • Oregon Leopard Party (unverified)
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    Posted by: Sherrilynn Rawson | Jan 20, 2010 8:58:48 PM

    I appreciate folks' attempt at reasoned discussion. I would caution, however, that folks read carefully. What was it that Mark Twain attributed to Benjamin Disraeli? Something to the effect of: "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

    Not entirely on topic, but that line gets mentioned so much I have to say something about it. It's crap. Nothing personal Sherrilynn, I liked your post, you just happened to be the latest person to say it.

    Point #1: Disraeli = Newt Gingerich. Not a guy you want to be quoting.

    Point #2: Let's get rid of another old saw. "The data speak for themselves". Data never say a word. So they don't lie. People use data to lie. (Feel like a gun rights advocate). It never hurts to collect data. Even biased data is good, if you know how it's biased.

    So, could we stop saying that statistics are the most damnable of liars, and say that the most damnable of liars often use statistics? And that isn't a bad thing to study either. The wonderful little tome, "How To Lie With Statistics", has an excellent introduction. Basically says that the professionals already know how to do it. The book is to teach the innocent how to defend themselves.

  • Sherrilynn Rawson (unverified)
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    Hey, Oregon Leopard Party; sorry about the throwaway line. Point well taken about who Disraeli was (though a person's distasteful character or contrary politics doesn't automatically mean he/she is never quoteworthy...again, just my opinion). :-)

    That being said, I'd really be sorry if my throwaway quote detracted from the point I was trying to make, which was: throwing together different kinds of statistics in a particular way can hide real information. I truly do love statistics (ask any poor soul who's had to put up with me diving headlong into them some time). What I don't love is the misuse of information to imply something is true that isn't necessarily so. Sorry if I did that in a clumsy fashion.

    Thanks for continuing the conversation!

    -s-

  • Oregon Leopard Party (unverified)
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    Oh, yeah, we're on the same page!

  • The Skald (unverified)
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    Thank you to Sherrilynn and Oregon Leopard for reasoned points and counterpoints! Mostly I lurk, but I've gotta say I truly find this site most rewarding when the discussion is reasoned and reasonably courteous. Oh, and you too Mike M! While I realize many could care less about a stray lurker's opinion, I definitely believe kudos are every bit as important (if not more) as snarky commentary.

    Thanks again. Cheers!

  • (Show?)

    Richard,

    As I posted in the headline, I am writing as a teacher who has seen the loss of 60 positions in the district. Right now, our distict is thinking about ways to cut for next year. Contigency funds won't cover what we have today.

    I would agree with earlier posters. Unless folks have worked in the education system or spent time volunteering you will not have the opportunity to see what happens for kids in our classrooms. It's easy to point the finger at teachers but we are the ones preparing the workforce of tomorrow.

    I urge you to vote yes on 66 and 67.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    Sherilynn and Debra,

    If it weren't for your unions those 50 or 60 postions cut could have been retained with the entire staff taking a reasonable hit. Thereby protecting the children. It's the unions who dictate preservation of compensation at the expense or your peers and students.

    And Debra did not answer what her cut was and typically did NOT answer the other questions I posted above.

    Her and Jeff want credit for sacrificing but refuse to be transparent on what their sacrifice is. Perfect.

    Vote no on 66 & 67

  • (Show?)

    Richard, that simply is not the case in North Clackamas. The initial cut of teachers was 60 but they also laid off classified and administrative staff, bringing the first round of layoffs to 110. Those cuts were in direct response to the reduced funding of the 2008-2009 school year.This was after reserves had been partially used. It would be irresponsible to consume all of the reserves. All three employee groups took a combination of pay cuts, wage freezes and 4 furlough days.In addition to seeing their colleagues lose their jobs, staff are under a heavily increased workload and our class sizes have grown significantly. Our elementary classes are frequently in the 30's and math classes at high schools are in the 40's. The public frequently is largely unaware of the impact of these cuts because they are not in the schools.

    Failure of the measures would be a loss of $8.9 million dollars in North Clackamas. That is equivalent to 109 teacher positions or 16 school days.

    While these numbers are specific to North Clackamas, they echo similiar effects being felt in the 198 school districts in Oregon. The impact is already significant and further reductions in funding will only impede Oregon's economic recovery and limit our future economic development.

  • (Show?)

    Point #1: Disraeli = Newt Gingerich. Not a guy you want to be quoting.

    Okay, so you've made the point that the schools are failing to teach history.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks, Jack.

    Or maybe the school taught but the student did not learn?

    Sometimes it seems there are those who believe that a good teacher has a magic wand which forces students to behave, turn in all their assignments, get good grades on tests, regardless of what is going on in their lives. And if not, the student bears no responsibility, parents bear no responsibility, but by golly that teacher ought to be reprimanded!

    When I read that remark, I remembered watching a PBS show on Disraeli and agreeing with much that he said.

    Does that mean I have voted for any Republican in recent years (having been a McCall, not a Gingrich, Republican)?

    Of course not!

    For the edification of those who know his work, here are some quotes.

    I challenge OLP to tell us which of these quotes sounds like Gingrich. http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Benjamin_Disraeli

    Of course, that might require actual thought--sometimes missing from blogs.

  • (Show?)

    Our school district shed $9 million last year, cut positions, cut days, and staggers 4 and 5 day weeks. If 66/67 fail the district will cut an additional $5 million. More cuts in staff and days are on the line. Classsize in grades 5 and 6 are up to 42 students.

    Our district is the size of the Sringfield district or the Tigard/Tualatin district.

    Vote Yes and stand for children.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Richard, are you saying that if the OEA did not exist, you would actually define for us " a reasonable hit"?

    "If it weren't for your unions those 50 or 60 postions cut could have been retained with the entire staff taking a reasonable hit.

    Can you define that now? And should administrators take pay cuts or only unionized employees?

  • andy (unverified)
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    The local high school has the funds to install a new artifical turf for the girls softball team. The boys baseball team has artifical turf for both the varsity and JV teams. The track just got resurfaced this summer also. Looks like they don't need any additional tax money from me so I'll be voting no on both measures.

  • (Show?)

    Whatever district you are in where sports facilities are being upgraded, the funding does not come from the general fund but rather from a district passed levy. Capital capacity and funding is achieved in this manner. They cannot, by statute,use those funds for other needs- even in times such as these. On the plus side, the bonds that have been passed since 2006 have provided a much needed boost to local communities in terms of businesses and jobs. This is especially true in the construction trades.

  • A Conservative Democrat (unverified)
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    "I worry about all of our students in Oregon. What message are we sending to our young people?"

    A message like teaching students opinion or an agenda rather than objective thinking and both sides of issues. A message like handing out free bus passes in Portland, free this and free that, thereby giving students the notion they don’t have to work for anything, including good grades; and that unlike some oblivious group of taxpayers, the government will provide everything to them free of charge. It is demeaning to the older generations who were educated without computers, in class sizes that averaged 35 to 40 students each and in unadorned school buildings that provided basic needs without all the frills while now being expected to finance a school system that never has enough money and is full of freebee extras. And then when the funding is increased, it all goes to teacher salary increases and educator retirement benefits, even when jobs are being lost in the private sector and working class income is loosing ground to inflation. Measures 66 & 67 are all about retaining private sector jobs vs increasing public sector spending. While the public employees continue having steak, the private sector is now on ramen Older generations deserve a rebate, not more taking!

  • LT (unverified)
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    Where is your evidence that all public employees eat steak? You know who they are, you see them in restaurants, you follow them in the grocery store?

  • Jake Leander (unverified)
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    andy wrote:

    The local high school has the funds to install a new artifical turf for the girls softball team. The boys baseball team has artifical turf for both the varsity and JV teams. The track just got resurfaced this summer also. Looks like they don't need any additional tax money from me so I'll be voting no on both measures.

    Brilliant decision-making process, andy - for an invertebrate.

  • james mattiace (unverified)
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    Ms. Barnes, Thank you for what you do daily and for taking the extra time to help pass these measures. I regret that you may have to do what you do with less resources if these measures don't pass.

    Secondly to the civil (and civic) minded posters, thank you for keeping the conversation above the sound-bite attack style vomit.

    Other than that, DH has summed up my position by drawing attention to the fact that this is not the first time that Oregon schools have faced cuts.

    James Mattiace Kingdom of Morocco former Springfield High School teacher

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