Judging the legislature: environment and education

Over at the Oregonian Opinion blog (where they bury editorials that don't make it into the paper), they posted a couple of editorials taking stock of the 2007 Legislative session - on the environment and education.

First, on education, by Jonah Edelman - the executive director of Stand for Children:

After a decade of moving backward, this legislative session finally put Oregon back on track toward providing our children with the education and support they deserve. ...

Before, 3,000 of Oregon's highest-risk children were denied access to high quality early education. Now, those 3,000 children will get the quality pre-school they need to start elementary school prepared.

Before, the state of Oregon did nothing to mentor new teachers and principals. As a result, 40 percent of Oregon's new teachers leave the profession within their first few years, costing taxpayers $45 million each year, and new teachers struggle on the job at the expense of their students. Now, in the 2008-09 school year, school districts will have state funding to provide mentors for nearly 1,000 new teachers and principals, an approach proven to increase student achievement and decrease costly teacher turnover. ...

Before, a decade that saw $1 billion in cuts from K-12 left Oregon students with some of the largest class sizes in the nation and with basics cut. Now, while our class sizes are still too large and our school year is much too short, we have a state budget that for the first time in ten years won't require cuts. Many districts around the state are beginning to reduce class sizes and restore programs like music, art, and PE. ...

The Oregonians who voted for pro-schools legislators and who made their voices heard at the state Capitol should feel really proud about what we accomplished for children and schools.

Read the rest of Jonah Edelman's op-ed on education.

On the environment, Andrea Durbin - the executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council:

The 2007 legislative session resulted in several major achievements for Oregon's environment.

Consider: The first expansion of the Oregon Bottle Bill since its inception in 1971 to cover the 126 million plastic bottles that go into landfills in Oregon annually. A new statewide Clean Diesel Initiative to retrofit and replace polluting diesel engines in Oregon's school buses, big rigs and construction and farm equipment, reducing one of Oregon's major causes of cancer and asthma. Aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals written for the first time into Oregon law and a new state commission to reduce global warming pollution. Bold new standards for renewable energy -- 25 percent of our energy will come from renewables by 2025 -- and cleaner fuels sold across the state to promote energy independence, create jobs and combat global warming.

These legislative accomplishments aren't just good news for Oregon's environment. They're also good news for Oregon's economy, good news for creating new living-wage jobs, good news for Oregon's farmers and good news for improving Oregonians' health. ...

The environmental debates this legislative session were less partisan and less politically charged than in the past. For the most part, legislators focused on good policy-making, not partisan exchanges about the environment.

Such bipartisan cooperation is a welcome change and harkens back to Oregon's legacy of environmental leadership when Republican Tom McCall was governor.

Read the rest of Andrea Durbin's op-ed on the environment.


  • Dave Porter (unverified)

    I also celebrate the environmental advances and reinvestment in education made by the 74th Legislative Assembly. But much more needs to be done on both the environmental and educational fronts. Please note that the world is growing smaller. Neither environmental nor educational issues stop at the Oregon, or US, borders anymore. Pollutants blow in from China. Asian economic markets are on the verger of surpassing the US market. There will be no solution to global warming that does not involve China. A China modernizing its military and strategic deterrence will pose ever new challenges. So, I remain concerned that less than 1% of our high school graduates have had two years or more of Mandarin (hardly fluent), and less than 2% of our public university students study Mandarin. I remain concerned because the 74th Legislative Assembly did nothing substantive to increase the number of Oregon students studying Mandarin. So let us celebrate, and get right back to work because the world is changing and much needs doing.

  • spicey (unverified)

    isn't cantonese what they should be speaking? my understanding is that Mandarin is the language of the upper classes and cantonese is the language of the people...

    besides that - yeah, I suppose, OK - first time in 16 years and all that - but how about changes to the Oregon Forestry Board? How about protections for the Tillamook? The bottle bill improvement - let's take it further... how about turning the Oregon coast into a marine sanctuary - how about a population policy for Oregon - the list goes on. I dunno, I am excited that anything came out of the leg, but overwhelming? we've got a long way to go...

  • Nicholas Short (unverified)

    isn't cantonese what they should be speaking?

    Until China can get its act together and decide which of the various dialects we're supposed to know, I suggest we get by on a hilarious dynamic of fast-talking American teamed up with a Charlie-Chan-style silent yet poignant Chinese dude.

    I remain concerned because the 74th Legislative Assembly did nothing substantive to increase the number of Oregon students studying Mandarin.

    And I remain concerned that the 74th Legislative Assembly did nothing substantive to provide for high-orbit planetary asteroid defenses, even while the chances of Earth being struck increase with each passing year. (You can blast 'em, but they'll just turn in to slightly smaller asteroids and can still hurt you.)

    Nah, seriously... I'm just yankin' yer chain; China's totally important and junk. (Maybe important enough for a thread dedicated to that topic why not?)

  • Tresa (unverified)

    This was definitely one of the most environmentally responsible sessions in Salem in decades. And yes there is still more to be done. There always is...

    It's important to build on our successes and keep this year's great momentum going.

    This fall, many of us will be working hard on the Yes on 49 campaign, but we need to continue to think about our environmental priorities outside of this scope.

    Let's not lose site of the prize: to leave a great environmental legacy behind for our families and future generations. We, as Oregonians, deserve nothing less.

    We'd love to hear what you consider the top five environmental priorities for Oregon.

    Come and share your ideas at OLCV Talk.

    Let's work to keep Oregon great!

  • David Dickey-Griffith (unverified)

    Anybody who doesn't think this session was a smashing success for progressives can't tell the difference between a bottle bill and a bottle rocket!

    Even if nothing else had been accomplished, the renewable energy and civil rights legislation alone would have been enough to make this a breakthrough year. Fortunately, that was just the beginning...

    As progressives, we should be celebrating and focusing on our next goals: more environmental legislation, comprehensive health care reform, a better revenue structure for the state of Oregon, etc. etc. and so forth.

    We've got the ability (finally) to do what we want to with Oregon's future. Time to raise our game and show that we deserve that privilege - the "Mandate of Heaven," as the Chinese would call it.

  • Dave Porter (unverified)

    Please stay on topic after this comment (about Mandarin). I do think this Legislative session produced remarkable gains and should be justly praised and celebrated. Each of us probably has an issue or two the legislature missed and we want them to get back to work on. Mine is more Mandarin in the public schools and universities.

    In reply to spicey and, perhaps, Nicholas Short, I quote Minnesota's Department of Education's "Chinese Language Programs Curriculum Development Project," a state that seems to be moving faster than Oregon on this issue: * China is a multinational country of approximately fifty-five ethnic groups with various languages; • Mandarin is the common language across ethnicities and nationalities; • There are seven major Chinese “dialects” (e.g. Mandarin, Shanghainese, Cantonese); • The oral forms of most of the seven major dialects are mutually unintelligible and differ considerably in pronunciation and, to a lesser degree, in vocabulary and grammar; • All Chinese dialects share one standard written form of the language; • Today, standard spoken Chinese is called “Putonghua” (Common Language) in the People’s Republic of China and is called “Guoyu” (National Language) in the Republic of China (Taiwan); • “Mandarin,” the English term often used for this language, is also one of the four official languages of Singapore; • Today, Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more people than any other language in the world; and • With about 885 million native speakers, Chinese has more than twice as many speakers as the next most widely spoken world language, English.

in the news 2007

connect with blueoregon