Early on after announcing his run for governor John Kitzhaber came to listen, probe and to send up a couple of trial balloons, some of which are which are now included in the educational package Salem legislators are struggling with at the close of the session. Long before he was elected he waded in and listened to bold ideas from every area in Oregon. He became aware of breakdowns in communication between early childhood services, K-12 public schools and post-secondary education. He heard about math and science scores lagging behind several other countries, competency-based education, the failures of No Child Left Behind, the unprepared Oregon workforce, the 40% high school drop out rate and budget squeezes.
Those of us who follow education bills were optomistic about passage of important bills that allow districts to withdraw from educational service districts, create an Oregon Educational Investment Board, allow the govenor to appoint a State Superintendent and more. In predictable fashion last minute bills were added just like every other session. It is horse-trading time after all, the session is about to end. A quick summary of the bills under consideration in the education package are:
- SB 250 - allows school districts to withdraw from education service district on or after July 1, 2014
- SB 253 - sets statewide goals for educated work force
- SB 552 - allows govenor to appoint state superintendent of public education
- SB 909 - establishes Oregon Education Investment Board for purposes of ensuring equitable outcomes for public school students by overseeing unified public education system that begins with early childhood services and continues throughout public education from kindergarten to post-secondary education.
- HB 2301 - allows school district, groups of school school districts, educational service districts to provide part-time or full-time online instruction
- HB 3362 - allows sponsor and public school charter schools to enter into cooperative agreement with the purpose of forming partnership to provide educational services.
- HB 3417 - specifies requirements of financial management system for public school charter schools
- HB 3474 - creates educator preparation improvement fund to improve preparation of teachers and administrators.
- HB 3645 - expands types of enities that may sponsor public charter schools ( higher education). institutions)
- HB 3681 - allows student to attend school in school district where student does not have legal residence if student receives written consent from district where school is located.
It is understandable that educational organizations such as the (Confederation of School Administrators, Stand for Children, Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Board Association) would look carefully at the education package. Every organization is preoccupied with financial self-interest. Organizations ask all of the time, "What's in it for me and my business?"
Some organizations surprise us and expand their outlook from personal gains to community gains. We all know organizations have entrenched attitudes and that it takes patience and thick skin to challenge those entrenched beliefs.
There is significant potential damage to the students attending Oregon's 197 public school districts if our elected officials don't get it right on this education package. Organizations have sent in their best lobbyists to advocate for their own interests.
One organization seems to be able to withstand the repetition of the key messages being repeated over and over and that organization is Stand for Children.
Stand for Children continually advocates for Oregon's public school students. With all due respect to every educational organization and to our elected officials in Salem please abandon partisan politics and make a cohesive decision on the educational package for one reason, the students. Our future as a state depends on it.