For our students, please veto HB 2301

This guest column is co-authored by: Brian Haliski, 1st and 2nd Grade Teacher, Tigard-Tualatin; Brian Hall, Middle School Teacher, Eagle Point; Helen Jacobs, Bus Driver, Albany; Jane Killefer, Middle School Teacher, Salem; Rebecca Konefal, Language Arts Teacher, Eagle Point; Michael D. Lamb, Chemistry Teacher, Klamath Falls; Andy Porter, High School Math Teacher, Lake Oswego; Gail Rasmussen, OEA President and Education Support Professional, Eagle Point; Lynda Sanders, 8th Grade Science Teacher, Coos Bay; Scott Shamen, High School P.E. Teacher, Fern Ridge; Lois Stark, Special Education Para Professional, Salem; Hanna Vaandering, OEA Vice President and Elementary P.E. Teacher, Beaverton; Erin Whitlock, Behavior Specialist, Springfield

Right now, students across the state are beginning their summer vacation knowing they’ll start school next year with larger class sizes and fewer educational options. Because of budget cuts, districts have been forced to close neighborhood schools, cut valuable programs, and shorten the school year. Hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers have been laid off. And in the face of all this funding turmoil, the Oregon Legislature caved to political pressure rather than standing up for students.

The fact is, the majority of Oregon’s Republican legislators, a few Democrats and Governor John Kitzhaber, have just agreed to permanently siphon hundreds of millions away from our schools and hand deliver them to for-profit, out-of-state, unregulated, virtual school vendors.

Republicans are celebrating, claiming that because the legislature approved and the governor has agreed to sign House Bill 2301, “another 20,000 students across the state could enroll in virtual charter schools”. This may cost struggling school districts as much as $206 million in the next biennium.

And what did the governor and Democrats who supported the bill get for it? They got $25 million in one-time dollars. They got a few, good education policy bills that should have and would have passed on their own merits (unanimously as it happens). And the governor got a bill to look at how we can restructure (not increase) the dismal, underfunded budgets for pre-K through post secondary schools – something he could have accomplished through an executive order.

Oh, and they get to leave town and go home to their families.

The more important question to ask: What do Oregon students get? They get a guarantee that teacher layoffs, school closures, shorter school years will be our permanent status quo.

In Salem, they get layoffs of 291 teachers and 150 education support professionals and administrators. In Lake Oswego, they get to close a school. On the South Coast, they get schools that are forced to lay off teachers and close their doors early.

What about Oregon taxpayers? What do they get for it out of this deal? They get to ship their dollars out of state, away from their community classrooms to corporations and shareholders and a few online teachers, who may or may not be licensed to teach and who most likely do not live in Oregon.

And here we thought public education and Oregon job creation were the top priorities.

What makes this whole debacle even more unpalatable is that the public was completely shut out of the backroom dealing. HB 2301 never had a public hearing. Parents, educators, and school leaders were never given the opportunity to weigh in and talk about how this will impact kids in the classroom.

We want to be sure to thank the 27 House Democrats, two Republican Eastern Oregon representatives and a dozen Senate Democrats for doing the right thing and standing up for Oregon students.

Sadly, in their frenzied rush to get out of town, the majority of legislators and the governor played politics with our schools. Our students are the ones who will suffer. If this concerns you, take a minute to let the governor know and ask him for a veto.

But despite what some of our lawmakers hand us, Oregon educators will continue to come to work every day and do our best to mitigate the damage done to students by bad public policy and back room deals. We’ll continue to partner with parents and community volunteers to fill the cavernous gaps that are left when there is no money to fund music, art, p.e., and other enrichment programs. We’ll continue to be in our classrooms afterhours to help the student we couldn’t get to during the day because of the other 39 in our class who needed attention. We’ll continue to work with local school leaders to provide the best education possible.

I just wish we had more support from our elected leaders to do it.

  • (Show?)

    Charter schools are public schools, and there are thousands of Oregon students who choose charter schools because it works better for them. Like all public schools, they have to have highly qualified teachers, and do the same state testing that all public schools are required to do. They use the same books (published outside Oregon) that other public schools use. Why is choice a bad thing when it comes to public education? What is the point of denying students and families the option of an education that is better tailored to their needs, and at a lower cost? (Charter schools get less funding per student, and little of no funding at all for school construction.)

    You want to blame 20,000 Oregon students for the bipartisan lack of spine when it comes to K-12 funding in Salem? Not the kicker? Not the billions in tax expenditures? Seriously?

    • (Show?)

      Hmm..this analysis seems fundamentally flawed to me.

      Although I agree with the final graph that there are plenty of other ways that the lege didn't address school funding needs, this bill wildly exacerbates the problem.

      In my research around the online charter schools in question, the are serious problems with graduation rate, parent satisfaction and the way that the funds are sent out of state, away from teachers & classrooms.

      This bill should be vetoed.

      • (Show?)

        Surprisingly, I have read the exact opposite ... weird.

        • (Show?)

          Educational research, not being scientific research since there are no control groups nor can you control the variables, is used to make both sides of whatever argument seems to fit the person's prejudices. You are much better off using common sense to analyze educational problems and arrive at solutions for your own problems than using supposed "research".

          With charter schools it stands to reason there would be good ones and bad ones and mediocre ones.

          In the case of online charter schools my two main questions are these: 1) Do you want to dilute the money for your regular public schools? Washington doesn't for instance. 2) Is it a good thing for most kids to sit home spending lots more time on their computers instead of interacting in the regular public school settings?

          • (Show?)


            I've read your blogs and I know you care about improving education, so I can only assume that you shot from the hip on that reply.

            There is absolutely use of controlled experiments in educational research. There are literally thousands of peer-reviewed research results.

            "Nor can you control the variables," what does this mean? Educational research can use statistical controls in its models, and doing so has the same strengths and weaknesses of any statistical design.

            Claiming that "common sense" is better than "supposed" carefully constructed scientific research into educational methods is simply wrong and feeds the tendency in far too many quarters to rely on anecdotes and guesses to create public policies.

        • (Show?)

          Geoff, given that ORCA's graduation rate is at 30%, which is up from 24% (this is objective fact), I'm curious where you're reading otherwise?

          This is vastly worse than the statewide average, btw.

          • (Show?)

            Something you should check out is that the Graduation rate was figured using data from the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school year. 2007-2008 school year ORCA only had K-11. Prior to the 2008-2009 AYP attendance numbers had been used. Schools like ORCA are also penalized when students re-enroll in there local school districts. They are counted as drop outs on the schools AYP.

  • (Show?)

    The post implies that without charters districts perceived as undesirable would be immunized against their inability to attract and retain students. That is false, they would still lose students to other districts as families either moved out or never moved in to begin with. PPS for instance has seen steadily declining enrollment while surrounding districts gained. Is it unfair that PPS gets relatively less money now? If not, what difference does it make if the beneficiary of PPS’s loss is another district or a charter?

      • (Show?)

        Because the status quo supported by the education establishment is working so well? Because Oregon community colleges and universities have not one but three remedial (no-credit) math classes to bring Oregon high school graduates up to the minimum level to begin learning college level math and calculus? Because a horrendous graduation rate for PPS and other districts is acceptable?

        And some really want to blame the legislature and governor for expanding on-line charter school opportunities to an additional 1% of public school children? Seriuosly now, the OEA and Education Administrators have got to show some critical thinking and offer alternatives instead of burying their collective heads in the sand. In the immortal words of Pete Townshend, "We won't get fooled again."

        • (Show?)

          "Because Oregon community colleges and universities have not one but three remedial (no-credit) math classes to bring Oregon high school graduates up to the minimum level to begin learning college level math and calculus?"

          Please remember that recent high school grads aren't the only ones going to community colleges and universities. The college I go to has an average student age on the 30s. That means it has been years and years since they've had any math, which in turn means it is no surprise that remedial math would be needed.

          In many of my classes I'm still the young one in the bunch and I'm 33. It's been 15 years since I've had a math class of any kind. How long do you think it has been since my classmates have taken a math course?

          You can't blame things like remedial courses at college entirely on the K-12 system.

          • (Show?)

            Well said, Jenni. While most of us use calculation skills in daily life, higher math skills don't get used unless we're doing work that utilizes them. This means that many folks returning to school might need a remedial course--not just in Math but in English--to get back into the groove.

    • (Show?)

      Paulie, tell all that happpy talk to the 291 teachers laid off from the Salem-Keizer district. One of them known personally to friends is an extraordinarily gifted teacher, a single mother with two children, skilled in integration of technology in instruction. Had the misfortune of being recently hired from a private sector school where she was an administrator, thus had low seniority. This gifted educator was kicked to the curb, while Gov. Kitz launches a give-away of educational funds to dubious charter school enterprises, taking funds from community schools.

      This gifted educator and the rest of us were deceived by Kitzhaber into thinking that he put neighborhood public schools first. We should all reconsider his and other Dem. legislator's promises of commitment to public education.

      What kind of equity is going on when Salem-Keizer loses 291 teachers and closes several schools, while Medford loses none?

      • (Show?)

        Seniority? Why should that matter, she's gifted right? Who do you want teaching our children, those with seniority or, those that are gifted?

      • (Show?)

        I wish I could "like" this comment 15 times and place it at the top of the most liked comments list. Especially this part:

        You expect teachers to heal the failures of our toxic culture, and blame them when they don't, while you continue to pander and enable that same toxic culture.

        My sister is a teacher, the kind who speaks two languages in her classroom, buys basics for kids who can't afford them, and worked with a family to rid one of her students of lice. And for this she took a 6% pay cut along with all of the other teachers in her district. She teaches in Arizona, where Jan Brewer rules, but still... teachers get punished for good deeds all the time.

      • (Show?)

        Speaking to the best and the brightest not entering teaching...

        Several kids I know who truly want to go into teaching are getting strongly counseled against it by parents and their parents' friends.

        The job the parents and friends have in common? Teaching. These aren't poor teachers, these are recognized, high-quality teachers. Their kids show the signs of good teacher potential--sharp, good steady attitude, able to deal with lots of stuff going on around them, good minds.

        And all of us are telling them "don't go into teaching." Even those of us who love teaching are advising others not to go into it. Not given the current systemic disrespect toward the profession.

        • (Show?)

          Do the teachers counseling against entering the profession teach at public schools or charter/private?

          • (Show?)

            Public schools, dude. Public schools. Again, these are teachers who have been recognized by community and by professionals alike as good to great public school teachers. They're telling their kids, who have the same talents, to not go into teaching.

            It's not the crappy teachers telling their kids this stuff. It's the good teachers.

            That should worry folks.

  • (Show?)

    Our students need the educational opportunities and cost savings that a range of current technological choices could offer them. OEA, and its members, should stop whining and stop being the Luddites of educational technology. It's a lost cause that hurts the teaching profession and students.

      • (Show?)

        "I'd like to see an online teacher somewhere outside of Oregon teach a class of 3rd graders the essential information/research skills they will need to be successful. Good luck with that model."

        Given that computers will increasingly be the vehicle by which we access information and do research, I don't see anything implausible about teaching those skills online.

        • (Show?)

          Accessing information and doing research is a slice of education. Especially at the primary school level.

          Education isn't merely accessing information and absorbing it. I would never allow my children to sit at a computer all day for the purposes of rote memorization, which is what the above comment implies. That's not teaching and it sure as hell isn't getting an education.

      • (Show?)

        Please do not think I confuse the many good things OEA does with the few terribly bad things it does. And please do not think that online education can do everything. In Oregon, we could have much, much more part and full time online learning that would be better for students and reduce costs. We do not because of the teacher unions. It is not in the long run interest of teachers to stand in the way of such techological progress, nor is it in the long run interest of Democrats to let Republicans be the only advocates for such changes.

        • (Show?)

          David, instead of joining the union-bashing crowd, why the heck don't you take a good hard look at what's really going on with regard to education technology? The cold hard reality is that the finances to support more technology in the schools does not exist. Districts might get excited about something like equipping classrooms with SmartBoards, for example. But then they fall down in the areas of installation, training and maintenance.

          Most experienced teachers are reluctant to jump on the technology bandwagon due to watching good money getting thrown after bad by partial investments, then seeing the equipment getting misused or not used at all because the administration didn't spend the money to get it set up right/keep it maintained.

  • (Show?)

    Salem-Keizer already has a well used online course program. But they have found, like everyone else, that these programs are not a panacea and require student readiness and discipline, as well as skilled instructors to design and interact with real students. Those who do best at online classes are already motivated and higher skill students. Some people who post here are in love with their "vision" of education and technology but know very little about the reality of educating real students.

    I think this betrayal by the governor and Dem. legislators should prompt a major revelation that Kitz and his political allies find teachers and neighborhood schools totally expendable, and are willing to not only abandon them but also scapegoat them for the failures of the educational/governmental system to fully support the work of classroom teachers. Teachers need to know who their friends are, who supports the day to day classroom experience. of learning and who is willing to posture for political gain.

    The 291 teachers of Salem-Keizer, the neighborhood school closures and the children and parents who attended have been thrown under the bus and stabbed in the back with this decision. And there will be consequences.

    • (Show?)

      Thank you Suzanne, for your work on SB927.

      Not a suprise that it didn't get anywhere given that OEA was vocally in favor of it. OEA is everyone's favorite whipping boy these days and some would rather eat glass than support anything OEA puts forward.

      Those awful, overpaid teachers who aren't improving the education system at all (except for teaching any and all in the public schools) and are just in the job for the money and benefits. /sarcasm--in case you couldn't tell.

      • (Show?)

        SB 927 went nowhere because it would have killed innovation and choice. It would have created yet another administrative bureau and would have set districts up to determine which district students would be allowed to utilize on-line learning. It would have needlessly complicated on-line learning options.

        SB 927 did nothing by solidify the status quo within the education establishment.

  • (Show?)

    I've heard second-hand that Connections Academy is using Art Robinson's ideological non-science based science curriculum.

    Can anyone confirm whether that's true or false?

    If true, my estimation of Connections Academy will have plunged far and fast.

  • (Show?)

    Thank you, Suzanne. OEA does support educational improvements. We supported a number of good bills during this session.

    I am very grateful for the passage of HB 3362 allowing Oregon to finally move forward on funding career and technical education in this state. It has taken years to get to this point following the lead of many other states including Washington and California.

guest column

connect with blueoregon