Dear State Senators and Representatives

Paulie Brading

We are coming from all over the state to see you today because it is time for a long-term vision for Oregon's K-20 educational system. It is time to redesign the delivery of education to Oregon's youngsters.

The Oregon Business Association and the Governor are asking you to improve statewide governence of K-12 education and to restructure the University System by granting the them more autonomy. They are asking you to make the state superintendent an appointed position, confirmed by the Senate.

Many of the K-12 Oregon school districts are faced with a string of months and months of labor negotiations extending far beyond the contract expiration date. We need you to lead on statewide solutions.

We want to preserve student contact days. Districts need your leadership to balance their budgets. Non student days should be used before a district forfeits student contact days. We need legislation that supports preserving student contact days.

For too long parents have been anxiously waiting for a world-class education system for their children. The reality is Oregon's graduation rate statewide is 66%. Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the country.

We are asking for political courage from all of you and from both parties.

This is not the time to kick the can down the road. Oregon students need you, parents need you and employees, business owners and employers need you. The price is too high for Oregon's children to be less educated than their parents.

  • (Show?)

    They are asking to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position, but have not made a case as to how replacing an elected official with a political appointee would improve something. Also, I'd like to see some evidence that calls for "redesign" aren't just a dodge to avoid the reality that disinvestment has consequences.

    • (Show?)


      And does anyone believe SFC would be backing an appointed Superintendent if Dudley had won?

      This is just a smokescreen for Kitz not wanting to admit the problem is, as you note, decades of disinvestment.

  • (Show?)

    I guess I see things from the opposite lens, Susan: we have too many elected offices in general in the United States, and voters pay little attention to most of the contests. What is the reason FOR electing a state school superintendent?

    Only 12 are elected nationwide.

    Furthermore, we pay badly. Susan Castillo earns $72,000 a year. You can earn more being a principal and more than double being the superintendent of one of the local districts.

    We get what we pay for in Oregon.

    • (Show?)

      Too many elected officials? How many should we have? How much democracy is "too much"?

      Re the salary, that may be an argument for increasing the salary; it's not an argument against electing the Superintendent.

    • (Show?)

      We pay badly for a number of things, but that's a non sequitur in this discussion.

      The question isn't how many states do it. Is there a connection between performance, however measured, and elected or appointed status?

      As for whether we have too many elected offices in general, well, gee, I just can't get there. It's "a very bad form of government... but all the others are so much worse."

    • (Show?)

      Paul, you should read the actual package of bills. They're also calling for election of five of the members of the State Board of Education.

      • (Show?)

        I'd support electing members of the State Board.

        But I also support making the Governor the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

        After all, with the bulk of state money going to education, it's the Governor that voters will and should hold accountable for schools.

        As it stands now, it's too easy for the Governor to shed responsibility - and point the finger elsewhere. Kulongonski and Kitzhaber haven't done that, but I'm glad to see Kitzhaber standing up and taking ownership of the schools.

        • (Show?)

          You still have not drawn a line from making this change to something being better. I guess I got lost in the logical leaps in this comment.

        • (Show?)

          So, you want to take away voter's right to elect the Superintendent as a solution to a problem that doesn't exist?

          • (Show?)

            There are clearly problems with education in this state. Heading into this biennium, Oregon is 21st to 25th in the country in K-12 spending but near the bottom in terms of student-teacher ratio and total instructional hours.

            So we have middle-of-the-pack funding for K-12 with questionable results, meanwhile our higher ed system ranks near the bottom in state funding but can't get the autonomy they need to start charting their own course.

            If this isn't a situation begging for reform, then what is?

            • (Show?)

              We also have a system, thanks to M5, which makes the state responsible for funding and local boards of education responsible for administration.

              How about this reform: allow local Boards to put general tax measures (e.g., income taxes) on the ballot? Restore local control of funding, and limit the state board to it's original role of coordinating curriculum at a "minimum standards" level?

              What happened to cause this mess was cutting funding, centralizing the funding, and forcing "equalization" downward for all the districts which used to have higher standards.

        • (Show?)

          Whoa, hold on. The Department of Education is overseen by the state Board of Education through the Superintendent of Public Instruction as chief administrator, and carries out the state policies set by the board and by the Oregon State Legislature.

          So you want you want to put the Superintendent of Public Instruction AND Department of Education under the Governor?

          As an FYI to everyone, the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is a State Constitutional office that's been in place since 1872.

          • (Show?)

            The Oregon Constitution is not sacrosanct. There is also provision in there for the seismic retrofitting of buildings, and if I recall correctly, a prohibition on dueling that also dates back to 1872.

            Given the degree attention paid to Education during the gubernatorial campaigns, I think it is a fine thing to make the governor more directly responsible for agency.

            As for a rationale for changing the position ...

            One reason to make the State Superintendent an appointed position is to shield the office from undue influence from special interest groups. Given the comparatively paltry amount spent running for the office, a single individual or interest group can easily "buy" the office for a given candidate.

            By contrast, the Governor has to answer to a much broader range of interests.

            Another reason to put the position under the Governor is that it makes the position less likely to simply preserve the existing bureaucracy. By requiring the office to serve at the pleasure of the Governor, the agency is much more subject to reform.

            • (Show?)

              "One reason to make the State Superintendent an appointed position is to shield the office from undue influence from special interest groups."

              Because, of course, there is no history of any elected official ever using appointments as political favors.

              • (Show?)

                Care to give some specific Oregon examples?

                • (Show?)

                  Just for fun, Ted K. appointing Tony Corcoran to the Employment Appeals Board in return for TC's vote in committee on PERS.

                  But more on point, if elected officials, generally, are susceptible to "special interest" influence, then it doesn't matter whether the influence is on policy directly or on appointments of policy makers.

                  I'd argue the last election for Sup. gave Oregon a clear choice on education policy, and voters made a choice.

                  Frankly, the arguments on policy tend, imo, to be clearer on a lower level race like Sup.- Instruction or BOLI Commish than for "broader" races like governor.

                  The narrowness of the position's authority tends to force more detail into the campaign, as opposed to "promoting jobs", which tends to be the main focus of every candidate for governor, followed closely by "eliminating waste" from government spending.

                  • (Show?)

                    My point is simply that the governor has to listen to broader constituencies than is sometimes the case for a position where the officeholder might be beholden to just a couple of individuals or groups.

                    I don't see that as a bad thing. YMMV.

                    I disagree that education is more significantly debated in the superintendents race than in the Governor's race. Kitzhaber's views on education probably had 20x the reach among voters than either candidate for superintendent.

          • (Show?)

            Mitch -- Let's not be overly incredulous here. That's exactly the proposal that's on the table. From the O:

            Senate Bill 552 designates the governor as the state superintendent. The governor would then appoint a deputy who would oversee the Oregon Department of Education and help lead the state's education initiatives.

            • (Show?)

              I wasn't being "overly credulous" I simply was not aware that Kitzhaber is actually pushing this on to the table as a specific Bill.

              At first blush I think it is a bad idea (but willing to listen to arguments).

              If things had gone the other way this past Nov. would we really want Dudley to be appointing the Superintendent of Public Instruction?

  • (Show?)

    Basically, this is a feud between Castillo and SFC, with Kitz making a power-play in the middle.

    • (Show?)

      What's SFCs beef with Castillo?

      To be honest I haven't been up to speed on either.

      • (Show?)

        My understanding is they want more "reform" than she's willing to support, from their POV.

        I'm not connected to SFC, just repeating what I hear out of Salem. This isn't about "policy", it's an internal political issue.

connect with blueoregon