Governor To Unveil Budget February 1st

Paulie Brading

Tomorrow Governor Kitzhaber will present the draft state budget to lawmakers. School Board members in the 197 school districts in the state of Oregon are waiting to hear his proposal. Before Ballot Measure 5 passed over 20 years ago, K-12 was funded 75% by local dollars and 25% by state funding. After it's passage K-12 is now funded by 25% local dollars and 75% state dollars. Measure 11 established mandatory minimum sentences for specified crimes increasing the inmate population by more than 10 fold. Oregon spends more than twice as much on their inmates than on public school students.

Kitzhaber has been signaling since he was elected that the most important action we can take is to invest in early childhood services. He's stated we need to change the way public services are delivered especially in education and health care. Importantly, our governor is committed to changing the spending paractices of the past.

Medford just completed a busy week of focusing on education K-20. Dave Frohnmayer, President Emeritus, University of Oregon and Medford native, Dr. Preston Pulliams, District President, Portland Community College and Fred Dickson, CMT, Senior Vice President/Chief Investment Stategist, Davidson Companies targeted K-20 education in their remarks at the Southern Oregon Business conference.

All three discussed the workforce challenges in a global economy and drilled down on the skills the workers of today and tomorrow will need for their jobs. All three stressed the need for an improved alignment between educators and business leaders for global competition.

This past Saturday, over 100 Jackson County parents, teachers, citizens and school board members attended a Stand for Children Summit. Serving on the opening panel with State Reps. Peter Buckley and Dennis Richardson we explained just how modest the state funds will be for schools in Oregon.

It takes a long time for us to reach the heart of the educational artichoke and grasp the bald facts that we have to make serious changes on how we invest Oregon's educational dollars.

We are using an old model of education that dates back to the mid 20th Century. All of us have been a part of the mass production manufacturing model in our public schools. We were grouped by age and run through each year in fixed units of time, all at the same relative pace and were moved to the next grade whether we were ready or not.

Dave Frohnmayer described in detail how this current generation of Oregon students are already less educated than their parents. He and Preston Pulliams lamented the ever growing need for remedial classes at our community colleges and universities.

Currently, one third of entering 9th graders in Oregon don't achieve a high school diploma in four years yet 87% of the new jobs in Oregon require some post-secondary education. Among those who do graduate, 40% are not prepared for a post-secondary education

We will begin with a strong investment in preschool. For every dollar spent on preschool, $7 in future social service and criminal justice spending is saved.

The reality is the schools belong to the community and the community belongs to the schools. We are faced with reducing the number of school days. Oregon already has a school year that is 3 weeks shorter than the national average. Does it make sense to put students on the streets or return inmates convicted of milder crimes to the streets?

The final adoption of school district budgets take place in June, Each of us has the opportunity to become an integral part of the budgeting process and play a vital role in how school district funds are appropriated.

Change is coming, especially in education and health care. The Governor's proposed budget will be balanced on existing revenue sources. Tomorrow is a big day.

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    Maybe someone involved in ed today can answer this for me...What changed?

    I am a product of a public school system in the '70's & '80's. The system seemed to work then. Has education theory changed in the past 30 years or have students changed? Maybe a cultural shift away from valuing education?

    What are you seeing on the front lines that isn't working now.

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    The high school where my wife works has given notice that at minimum 10-15 teachers will be laid off. Class sizes in some cases will double. No announced cuts in athletics. There's where the priorities are.

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    When we went to school in the 70's and 80's, that production line mode of education was really just getting going, and the educators themselves were not the product of it. We still learned how to learn, something that has diminished to next to nothing, as time has gone on. Education hadn't yet become about preparing us for employment, at least as its core purpose.

    I will say that, although I very much understand the connection between education and economic sustainability, the fact that we continue to tie our educational outcomes to what we can economically produce (i.e. the "workforce" emphasis)is really concerning to me because it won't address the above-mentioned production-line issue. It won't matter what model name we stick on it, if our education system does not fully educate (i.e. civic responsibility, critical analysis, creative imagining, etc.). If we continue to create an educational system designed to produce workers, not much is going to change.

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      Agreed. The emphasis in public education seems to be on producing employees or even consumers opposed to producing actual citizens. Just one example: there is very little debate, discussion, critical analysis, etc. of real world issues/problems in most social studies classrooms.

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      Debra makes a good point.

      In addition, to answer Michael's question above: We've had 20 years of disinvestment in Oregon schools.

      In 1990, we had the advent of Measure 5, which slashed property tax revenues. That was followed by the cratering of the Oregon timber economy, further devastating school funding. Then, a series of crime measures that drove hundreds of million in state revenues into the prison system.

      And, in most recent years, the rapid skyrocketing of pension costs - which takes money away from operations. Pension costs shot up because elected officials long, long ago boosted future pension benefits in lieu of wage increases. That day of reckoning is now here, further destabilizing state and school budgets.

      (To be clear, I don't blame public employees for those pension benefits -- they traded away wage increases in favor of future pensions. A deal is a deal. A contract is a contract. We're stuck now with bad decisions made by Governors and legislatures in the 1970s and 1980s. But that's part of what ails Oregon today.)

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    Unfortunately teachers/the system gets far too much of the blame for our nation's failure to create competent citizens. Poverty is the primary culprit. This is from one of the best stories on education that I've seen in a while.

    Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

    "To justify their campaign, ed reformers repeat, mantra-like, that U.S. students are trailing far behind their peers in other nations, that U.S. public schools are failing. The claims are specious. Two of the three major international tests—the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study—break down student scores according to the poverty rate in each school. The tests are given every five years. The most recent results (2006) showed the following: students in U.S. schools where the poverty rate was less than 10 percent ranked first in reading, first in science, and third in math. When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose still higher, students ranked lower and lower. Twenty percent of all U.S. schools have poverty rates over 75 percent. The average ranking of American students reflects this. The problem is not public schools; it is poverty. And as dozens of studies have shown, the gap in cognitive, physical, and social development between children in poverty and middle-class children is set by age three."

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      Very interesting data. I will print and read it tonight. Thanks.

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        I was going to say something similar. When I went to school in the early 60's we had very little diversity in the student body. No ESL, no non-European immigrants, no Hispanics. You get the picture. Blacks were isolated in their own schools (segregated by income, not by law). Kids with severe learning disabilities were kept out of public schools.

        In addition, teacher pay was lower since most teachers were women and they didn't need to be paid as much as men. Health insurance was a minor expense as was retirement. The net result was a lot more money and resources per middle class student than for those same students today.

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          The teachers I had in the 50s and 60s all had to work second jobs on weekends and in the summer time because they couldn't support a family. There was no health care benefit for them. And unionization was just beginning, resisted and considered radical, especially in small town Oregon. Back then you could teach with a bachelor's degree in Education. Not any more.. all teachers are expected to get an M.A. in a subject area, even if their entry level hire is a B.A. Why anyone today would want to go to six years of college to get an M.A. so they can start at $35 thousand a year is beyond me. They have to have a strong sense of "calling." Given the current climate anyone getting trained for a teaching career has no future employment prospects.

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    Granted, I have a dog in this fight. I AM a teacher...and as most folks know...I gave up my job in the private sector long ago to give back. I teach career and technical education to students in the North Clackamas School District. I can show you data where students who take a least two years of a CTE program in my school have a 98% graduation rate from high school.

    This is not the old vocational education training. Students learn communication skills, meeting deadlines, writing, teamwork, and other employment skills in high school. They receive college credit. They can learn through internships and work study. This is how we keep kids in school and graduate.

    Tuesday afternoon, the North Clackamas Education Association is teaming with the local chapter of Stand For Children and the Portland Association of Teachers for a rally to mark the opening day of the Oregon Legislature. If you are in the Portland area and care about public education then join us. 4-5pm...either at the Milwaukie Marketplace intersection at 224 and Oak or over i-205 at 212 on the way to Clackamas.

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    Perhaps someone can answer this question: As of today, Oregon is currently ranked 21st out of 50 states in K-12 funding. However, we are 45th out of 50 states in the ratio of teachers to students and at or near the bottom in terms of total instructional days.


    Regarding the Governor's K-12 Budget...

    He wants to shift allocations away from a "per student basis" and tie allocations to educational outcomes. Sounds good. How is that accomplished in a way that doesn't reward kids in privileged environments like Lake Oswego and punish kids in low-income neighborhoods?

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      "He wants to shift allocations away from a "per student basis" and tie allocations to educational outcomes. Sounds good. How is that accomplished in a way that doesn't reward kids in privileged environments like Lake Oswego and punish kids in low-income neighborhoods?"

      Exactly. This is pure politicking. Educational outcomes, as measured how, with what educational, socio-economic groups? The best outcomes happen with the families with the best socio-economic level, and with the most educated parents. So the districts most in need are the ones that get punished. Kitzhaber needs to get confronted with his faulty assertions about education and how funding should be distributed. He grew up with parents who were teachers and in an affluent Eugene neighborhood. Is that the educational universe most children grow up in?

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        Exactly. There may be good answers to all of those questions. And there is no question in my mind that we need reform in our educational system. But the mantra should be "First, do no harm to the most vulnerable." The middle class and upper class kids will sort themselves out. Education achievement in the United States is failing the most at the lowest SES levels, not in the middle and upper-middle class.

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      Sal, that's interesting stuff. Can you cite your sources?

      I'd like to dig in and understand what exactly they're counting.

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        The claim that Oregon is 21st in education funding and 45th in teacher-student ratio came from the 2010 NEA "Rankings and Estimates Report" pgs 39 and 40 "Public School Revenue per student in average daily attendance". If you use the state and local government expenditures per student in fall enrollment chart on pg 54, Oregon ranks 24th. "Students per teacher" came from page 18 of that report. The statistic about Oregon being near the bottom in instructional hours came from a District performance audit by Portland Public Schools.

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          There is a more recent NEA report that ranks Oregon as 27th, not 24th in state and local expenditures per student in fall enrollment. But it doesn't change the basic question:

          Why is Oregon 27th in funding but at or near the bottom in terms of instructional days and teacher-student ratio?

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    We now view education as a private-individual good versus a public good. We have decided that people like Bill Gates are education experts, not teachers. We have decided that private sector models should work in our public schools. That is what has changed.

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    I'm not so sure. Public K-12 education remains fairly well-funded at roughly $10,000 per student on a local and national basis.

    We send our daughter to the local Montessori school. Our Montessori school accomplishes a higher teacher-student ratio, more instructional days, and higher levels of achievement than our public schools on about $8,000 per student.

    I can't help but wonder why public schools are accomplishing less with more resources.

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      Your comparing apples and oranges Sal. A typical Montessori parent has a higher level of education, makes more money, reads to their children more, etc. than the typical public school parent. Of course they are going to be able to reach higher achievement levels. It's hard to make a great apple pie when several of my apples are rotten.

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        That speaks to education outcomes. And, of course, I agree with that part of your argument. But we still haven't cracked why costs are so much lower on a per student basis. One would think that there would be a competitive advantage in terms of cost, given the larger scale of public education institutions.

        Also, I still have not had any kind of response to my question as to why we are basically middle-of-the-road in terms of investment in K-12 education but near the bottom in terms of instructional hours and teacher-student ratio.

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    In this great "review" underway, the priorities are still set by school boards who represent the public. This is a public who want their kids to have the same school structure and experience they had, complete with football games, pep rallies, proms, and social experiences.

    Every time the legislature or the State Board of Education tries to change or upgrade graduation requirements they are thrown overboard as large numbers of students face not graduating because they don't meet the testing requirements. (Remember the CIM and CAM, long gone.) The present testing standards for graduation will not be met by an estimated 1/4 of graduating seniors. You can bet those standards will disappear.

    I think where we're headed are schools with a football team, stadium, and coach, and no educational program at all. Education reform is a political process that is subject to the values of the culture. We are a non-reading culture that places the highest value on entertainment, electronic media, sports, etc. Those are the values that continue to prevail in the politics of education. Kids walk around the school with their smart phones and their ipods. Their parents resist any kind of limits or discipline, and there is nearly zero dress code as kids are half naked. They show up late for class whenever they want to. How can anything resembling education take place in that environment?

    Let's be serious. We have a sick culture where the best predictor of success in education is going to be the child whose parent sits down with them, starts reading to them when they are in preschool, and continues to sit with them with supervised homework, puts limits on television and computer game access, and who comes to every parent-teacher conference. The child who lacks this parental support, with rare exception is much less likely to succeed. Many teachers believe correctly that too many parents' main reason for sending their children to school is to have a free baby sitting service.

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    Oooh, can't wait for this headline: "Mentally ill get no meds on OHP, but can watch more movies made in Oregon".

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