Understanding the state budget

Steve Novick

New York, like Oregon and all but a few other states, is suffering from a massive budget deficit. According to a recent New York Daily News poll, by a margin of 53% to 36%, New Yorkers think the deficit should be closed by cutting services, rather than raising taxes. (Although one specific tax proposal ­ taxing millionaires ­ drew 84% support.) But only 10% of New Yorkers support cutting education or health care; 65% support cutting economic development.

There's a problem with New Yorkers approach. Education and health care make up two-thirds of the state's budget. Economic development? It's less than two percent.

I suspect that New Yorkers simply don't know where the state budget goes. They think it should be possible to balance the budget without cutting education or health care. Based on previous polls in Oregon, I would guess that Oregonians, if polled, would have pretty much the same reaction as New Yorkers ­ because here, too, we have not done a great job of letting folks know where their tax dollars go.

As we prepare for a painful legislative session, with our elected leaders grappling over the budget, it's important for progressive activists to have the facts. The Republicans in the Legislature, being in the minority, don't have to be responsible; they ll attack Governor Kulongoski and the Democrats if they cut services, and they ll attack them if they raise taxes. It's up to us ­ or at least partly up to us ­ to explain the context to our fellow citizens.

The basic fact is this: The vast majority of the state budget goes to education, health care and public safety. You can't balance the budget in an economic downturn without affecting those services. (I m talking here about the General Fund / Lottery budget, the part the Legislature has the most discretionary power over to divide up among different services. There's also the transportation budget, but there the money is all dedicated; you have to spend gas tax money on roads. A number of other services ­ like, say, the Employment Department ­ are likewise largely funded by dedicated taxes or fees; unemployment taxes go to pay unemployment claims.)

In this (2007-09) biennium, 41.3% of the General Fund / Lottery budget goes right to K-12 schools. The state provides the biggest share, about 50% of school funding for over 500,000 kids (more than that, if you just look at school operating expenses, and exclude capital costs).

Another 13% goes to the state university system, community colleges and other education programs. So education is more than half the budget.

After education, the second-biggest chunk of the state budget, 22.7%, goes to so-called human services ­ which should be called something like health care, children seniors and people with disabilities. The state provides health insurance for about 400,000 people, including over 220,000 children and 35,000 seniors. (Wait a minute, you might ask: Isn't Medicare a purely Federal program? Yes, but Medicare doesn't pay for everything. For example it doesn't cover long-term care.) Health care costs make up 47% of the state's "human services" costs.

Other kinds of longer-term care for seniors and people with disabilities makes up 31% ­ like nursing home care (for about 5,000 people), in-home care (for about 12,000) and care in the community, care in facilities that aren't as intense as nursing homes (for about 10,600 people).

The children adults and families portion of human services is about 16% of that budget. That includes child protective service workers investigating and managing cases of abuse and neglect, payments to foster parents, day care subsidies, and temporary assistance to needy families ­ cash welfare for about 18,000 families. (Cash welfare is less than 1% of the total general fund / lottery budget.)

An important thing to remember about the human services categories is that most of them have "Federal matches" attached to them. The Oregon Health Plan and the senior and disabilities services are mostly part of Medicaid, which means that the Feds match whatever Oregon spends with three Federal dollars for every Oregon dollar. (That also means that when we cut Oregon spending, we lose Federal money. That is generally NOT true of the education or public safety parts of the budget.) The Feds also provide most of the cash welfare money and part of the child protection / foster care money.

The state also provides addiction services for about 64,000 people and mental health services for about 103,000. Those services represent less than 10% of the DHS budget.

Public safety is the third biggest category, 15.8% goes to prisons, courts, State Police, etc. That's going to go up, I would guess, because of Measure 57, which increased penalties for property crimes.

So: with about 93% of the General Fund going to education, health / seniors / people with disabilities / children / the poor, and public safety, that leaves only 7% for everything else. The Department of Revenue, economic development, the few tax dollars (as opposed to fees) that go to environmental programs, the Legislature, the Governor's office ­ and a bunch of other little things ­ it all has to squeeze into 7%.

I am a little obsessed with people knowing where tax dollars go, but I think the New York poll helps to justify my obsession. If people don't know what the choices are, they ll be mad at whatever the politicians do, and the politicians won't really know what the public's priorities are, because when polled, people will say don't cut the important stuff and don't raise taxes. In the long run, we can ONLY have a rational public debate about taxes and spending if voters know the basic facts.

In 2005, when I was with Citizens for Oregon's Future, we developed a balance the state budget exercise for high school students that was used by social studies teachers in Creswell, Springfield, Salem, and Portland. The students came out of that exercise with a new respect and appreciation for the importance of state government and the difficulty of legislators jobs. The more we do to help inform our fellow citizens, the healthier our democracy will be.

  • Rep. Peter Buckley (unverified)


    I have, for some reason, greater appreciation than ever for your efforts in this area.

    Would it be all right for me to send out your posting to my legislative email list and ask others to forward it on as well?

    Thanks & Onward, PB

  • SCB (unverified)

    Novick writes, "Based on previous polls in Oregon, I would guess that Oregonians, if polled, would have pretty much the same reaction as New Yorkers ­ because here, too, we have not done a great job of letting folks know where their tax dollars go."

    Actually, that's not true.

    I recall Barbara Roberts touring the State doing High School Gym presentations about what the State does, and where our budget dollars go. I recall the Oregonian publishing many, many pie charts and bar graphs of the years. I recall the Bend Bulletin doing the same. Even the little old Central Oregonian in Prineville has published pie charts and the like showing where State dollars go.

    It's not for a lack of information.

    It's a belief system. When the likes of McIntyre and Sizemore go around spending millions of dollars on campaigns where the themes of government waste and overpaid employees are the cornerstones, year after year, you have a misinformed group of vocal people as the direct result. You have within what's left of the Republican Party a core group of "believers" who as a cornerstone of the faith believe that there is sufficient waste in government that any budget can be balanced by cutting waste. Nothing so trivial as the truth will change their minds.

    It is a knee-jerk liberal/progressive theme that if people disagree with you, its because they are ignorant and just need better information. That group of "true believers", numbering in the 100,000's in Oregon, don't want the truth if it conflicts with their beliefs.

    We just need to ignore them, and govern the State for the best.

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    Is taking education out of the general fund budget and putting it under the capital budget a far fetched and crazy idea that's bad or a far fetched and crazy idea that's good?

  • Bob D. (unverified)

    Steve, you jump to a false conclusion that the seeming contradiction in the poll results must be due to the fact people are ignorant (in the formal sense of the word, not the pejorative sense). Unfortunately you demonstrate a common problem that traces to a mindset of privilege common we see in places like this. (And a sense of privilege has little to do with one's current, temporal economic status.)

    The poll results are consistently explained in a way that most folks understand in their gut the poll results you find explanatory of what are really false assumptions on your part. They have have nothing to do with ignorance nor cognitive dissonance.

    Most working people are barely making it, and quite fearful of losing their jobs. They also depend on a greater degree on the the basic human services that take up much of a state's budget. With just that minimal intellectual groundwork, I suspect the few here with true common sense already can explain what I think you and most here would pounce on as a seeming contradiction that therefore MUST only be explainable by ignorance.

    When folks worrying about their daily economic survival hear about the budget priorities the relatively comfortable, limousine liberal, "noblesse oblige" class of people here put on poorly thought out schemes about the "sustainable future" and such, they believe those kind of people and the leaders they elect don't really have a clue. They see how after the failure of the ill-conceived M50, venal politicians like Merkley PERSONALLY took any discussion of alternate schemes to raise money to fund health care for 80,000 children off the table in the 2008 session because he didn't want that coming up in his Senate race and instead shamelessly told them to put their children in line for the OHP lottery.

    People in the class I'm talking about also knew he cynically understood ignorant partisans like we find here would fill the political space so there was little chance he would have to answer for that kind of behavior. Remember, Democratic registration in this state is less that 40%, and it is skewed upscale. (Including towards what, in an astoundingly clueless and arrogant act of self-labelling, has come to be called the "creative class").

    Working folks see this obvious dysfunction in our governance, and the just plain double-talking. They justifiably believe those kind of people really aren't on their side and they are own their own. They understand they will be more in control of their day-to-day fate if they have the cash in their pockets then if they were to depend on bread-and-butter social programs that this class of people really just use as political footballs for their own purposes rather than genuinely defend. Particularly when the poll questions are asked about cutting services in a general way.

    That does not in any way disqualify working people from also saying those same bread-and-butter government services shouldn't be cut. I'll bet I'm more aware of the numbers than you are about the Oregon budget, and particularly the health care budget, and I'd answer the poll exactly the same way. That's first because I strongly believe taxes on working people should not be raised, and that the kinds of services those in the upscale class in Oregon advocate should be cut. At the same time, I don't think education, health care, and human services should be cut because I believe we should come up with a progressive tax system to fund them, and cut funding to a lot of pet causes of a truly uninformed segment of the population we see over-represented right here on this blog advocate.

    I assure you I could write a set of poll questions that completely eliminate the apparent contradiction you see. I can also assure you it's not a poll those in the current majority or minority want taken.

    And if you haven't quite gotten it yet, the single word you should be using to describe the situation is not the ignorance of the people being polled, it's the abject hypocrisy of those who claim to represent them they are thinking about when they are polled.

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    Thanks for this post, Steve. Whatever policy direction people support--raising taxes, cutting services, reallocating spending, etc.--everyone should at least start with some basic understanding of the facts.

    I don't necessarily share your confidence that having the facts will change people's opinions. But it might at least reduce the number of times I end up slapping myself on the foreheard after reading a letter to the editor about how we wouldn't have a budget problem if we just got rid of the State Seal Design Commission.

    P.S. Before anyone starts posting, that was a joke. To the best of my knowledge, there is no State Seal Design Commission. If there is one, I agree we should get rid of it--BUT IT IS NOT GOING TO SOLVE OUR BUDGET PROBLEM!

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    Steve, thanks for a good rundown. Now, how about the same treatment for where the money comes from?

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    Thank you for your timely post. Last night more than a dozen organizations attended a stategy session titled, "Winning Universial Health Care in 2009-Yes We Can!" The meeting was convened by Representative Buckley and included assessments from State senator Alan Bates MD and Bill Thorndike. Senator Bates, the author of the Healthy Oregon Act spoke about the process we can expect in Congress.

    The session was an opportunity for the leadership of our organizations to stategize, share ideas and to make certain we are prepared for the demanding legislative campaigns for parts of the state and federal government budget.

    Seantor Jeff Merkley sent his personal greetings to the attendees. Senator Wyden is also working on a solution to our health care system and has been since the 1990's.

    CEO's, La Clinica del Valle, Physicians,SEIU, and many other organizations seemed at times like strange bedfellows. In the end, it was clear to many in attendance that if we don't act on the health care crisis we will be facing a health care meltdown on the scale of the Wall Street debacle.

    The predictable duel between insurance companies and the grassroots effort to provide affordable health care for working families, small business and retirees will begin. It is up to us to be certain that all of our state legislators across the state understand we must control costs and can no longer allow the insurance companies to "cherry pick" who receives certain services.

    Efforts like yours Steve, providing a broad outline of the state budget are appreciated. I'm particulary pleased to have your voice back on Blue Oregon.

    Paulie Brading

  • Rick Hickey (unverified)

    State Budget woes? Not in OK. where they follow the law(s).

    Steve, Education #1 costs FACT: There are close to 70,000 non-english speaking students @ a cost of $9,000 each = $630,000,000.00 p/Yr. (yes $630 Million) in a program with a decades long consistent 80% Failure rate.

    Health Care #2 costs FACT: I have a brochure form DHS telling Illegal aliens how to get "services" (OHP, Food stamps, etc.), actually admitting DHS won't call Immigration and report them.

    Overall budget FACT: Illegals pay NO state income taxes, NONE via avg. income of only $14,000/yr. and multiple Children reported on W-2 @ work (therefore actually get a refund on Taxes not even paid via FED. EITC). FACT: OR. DMV reports over 150,000 Illegals are here and have a good for 8 yr.s License, same or more amount of people are on Un-Employment for a long time here Hoping for a job and yet forced to compete for a paycheck with desperate 3rd World people who'll work for anything and tax free and send thier money Home, not here. My Brother a home builder amd my other Brother, a landscaper are two examples.

    FACT: California, place with the most Illegal's is the most in Debt and has been for a long while (before recession) and proves that Illegal immigration is NOT "good for the economy". (State Prisons alone spend over $800 Million/yr. for Jailing criminal illegals, Fed reimburses only 1/8 of that).

    FACT: Illegals = NO contribution to paying their share of taxes, yet qualify for every tax distribution program there is.

    Fair and kind solution? E-Verify = no Illegal steals another job from us and mandatory S.S.# verification for any Benefits as well.

    No job, no benefits = no money and these folks go home and solve the real problem, THEIR government. Social service expenses decrease drastically, Wages are paid to legal Taxpayers and more Taxes are collected, with NO new Tax plans.

    Why is this so hard to comprehend? It works in OK. & AZ.

    p.s., I wanted you to win over Merkley.

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    This is an excellent post.

    It provides key factual information on Oregon's budget--which frankly, we all need to know more about.

  • Bob D. (unverified)


    It might be informative for us all to see how your views about educating the public translate. In this case, if you might speak to the point provoked by Paulie's advocatory comment how the long-standing concept of universal health care --- which pretty much was synonymous with single payer until recently --- is something fundamentally different from the values that term has been cynically co-opted to represent that underly:

    a) Bate's/Greenlick's current private-insurance-based Oregon Health Authority plan, b) Merkley/Wyden's Healthy American's Act, c) Obama's incompletely specified plan during his campaign, d) Daschle's Federal Health Board plan, e) the vaguely defined plan Obama and Daschle are now letting people believe is whatever they need to believe to build apparent support, f) whatever it is that Kitzhaber and his Archimedes Project are trying to push for the moment. (They don't seem to have a specific health care plan so much as they are one of those quaint Oregon movements of people talking a lot about how they are going to talk about a plan).

    Each proposes a different funding model, including a different tax plan. The elected leaders and their supporters that I previously noted average people keep in mind when they answer the poll questions have started to try to lead people into believing that somehow claim these plans are pretty much about the same thing. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

    I'd personally be very interested in hearing your response to Greenlick's latest LC draft of the Oregon Health Authority plan. Do you support a citizen demand the Democratic majority in the legislature create a true publicly-owned, publicly-accountable option everyone could choose as an alternative to private insurance? This would be of immense help to individuals, small businesses, and working people generally, particularly in the tough economic times ahead. It also would completely change the terms of debate in the legislature and the public around taxation and human services issues you discuss here.

    Or would you only support the current language to study the possible need for such a plan while instead base the the OHA on private insurance for now? The other plans, except the Merkley/Wyden plan based totally on private insurance, similarly give lip service to a "public plan". In the fine print, though, they actually say the "public plan" is just some form of private health insurance simply offered through the government rather than by agents of the companies to individuals or companies directly.

    If you would want to sign-on to grassroots citizen efforts to influence the legislature to direct the Oregon Health Authority to create a public option rather than just do another one of those studies that doesn't move the ball, just say so and we can get you in touch with the right people. (Letting my imagination run wild --- you Interested in running for Governor or against Wyden and whoever the GOP puts up in 2010 as a "Health Care Party" nominee?)

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    Rick shows off his xenophobia:

    There are close to 70,000 non-english speaking students

    Rick, I was born a United States citizen. But I entered kindergarten with minimal English language skills, since my mother raised us speaking Finnish at home.

    Are you saying that all 70,000 non-english speaking students are illegal immigrants?

    If so, I've got a bridge in Sellwood to sell ya.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    It bothers me when people say "public safety" when they mean "prisons".

    Actual public safety means more than just locking people in prison. Education is public safety. Health and human services, including providing treatment for drug addiction, and job training and poverty relief, all count as real public safety.

    It costs less to keep one person on welfare for a year than it does to keep that person warehoused in jail or prison for a year. And it costs even less to give that person a decent education in the first place.

    Lane County has ANNUAL local ballot measures to raise taxes for jails. Every year, they throw one of those on the ballot, and they call it "public safety", and every year the people remain unfooled, and vote it down.

    You want to cut the budget, take money away from prisons, or "Department of Corrections" or "Improving Oregon by Locking Up It's Citizens" or whatever they're calling it these days, and divert it to helping law-abiding people so that they do NOT end up needing the services of prisons.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    On the other hand, it doesn't bother me when people preface some statement by writing "FACT" in all-caps right before it. My experience is that it's a valuable clue that someone is just making some numbers and stuff up.

  • kirk (unverified)

    Yes kari, most of the 70,000 are illegal aliens. You need to educate yourself on the facts. I am against this current racist policy run by this government that only promotes spanish. There are many other languages in this state and the world. I was talking to a Korean lady the other day. She was angry because everything is in spanish. She said she came to the USA, not mexico.

    Kari, if Rick points out the facts, how is that xenophobic? I recommend you look up the definition of xenophobia. I think you are the xenophobic here since you are trying to make this an issue about race.

    Rick is trying to point out the fact the this state has an ESL program here that has an 80% failure rate. We spend about $630 million per year on this program. Steve has written this article about Oregon's budget.

    Rick has brought up a great point. How can anyone justify spending such a huge amount of money on a failed program? This is more critical now with the economy going in the dumps. We will have to make cuts somewhere. ESL is a failed program that fails the children and wastes our tax dollars. This programs should have been dumped decades ago. It does nothing but provide jobs for a group of people and take our taxes with no return on the investment.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    I think SCB makes a very important point upthread. As has been said already, we lefties tend to make our decisions by evaluating the facts, and assume that people who support the opposite position need more info.

    I've come to believe what others have said here, that many of the people who favor budget cuts (or hold other right-wing positions) do so simply because of a belief system. They've decided to trust, or have been told to trust, the people espousing right-wing positions; they've also been told that info from people who can be identified as left-wing is not to be accepted. In such an environment, facts are irrelevant (witness the appeal of Sarah Palin).

    I'm not saying there's nothing to be gained by an education effort such as Steve proposes - there are a few people in the middle we can probably sway - but it won't really help to fight the indoctrination that's done through people like Sizemore, Larson, Limbaugh, etc. That's a much more difficult task, but I think there's a pretty large part of the public that's going to continue to reject the social contract until we find a way to turn that around.

  • Bob D. (unverified)

    As has been said already, we lefties tend to make our decisions by evaluating the facts, and assume that people who support the opposite position need more info.

    I'm not trying to provoke an argument with Mike, since I agree with half of his statement. However, I think it is the belief of lefties that they make decisions based on the facts when that is the problem. The left, as exemplified here at least, tends to confuse shared beliefs with facts.

    That confusion seems to be linked to a worldview of entitlement and power. The hardest lesson for the left over the past 8 years has been the fact we were confronted by a competing worldview that achieved power and who, therefore, had the ability to make political reality. That is, turn their beliefs into a facts on the ground in a practical sense as the left has been able to do in national policy for several decades post-New Deal, but only in blue areas of the country for the last decade.

    I'm not talking here about facts in the sense of hard science and the sub-domains of public policy hard science in forms. I'm talking about the interpretations of Steve has given here of the reasons attributed to people's actions based on data of suspect validity. Ironically, though, it has been what clearly is understood here to be "the left" that has spearheaded a very anti-rational, anti-science movement in academia starting in the 1970's on the claim that science and rationality are patriarchal, or more generally just not in keeping with values and beliefs of the left.

  • Will Neuhauser (unverified)

    For the top-level number and graph of the Governor's 2009-2001 General Fund budget, see: http://www.progressiveviewpoints.com/2009/01/my-entry.html

    When you take out education, human services and public safety you have 7% of the budget left, if you take out the Judicial and Legislative Branches, you are left with 2% of the state budget.

    Its hard to argue Steve's point that if the only option you give yourself is cutting, you have to cut the "essential services."

    Some folks fly off the handle with examples trivial expenditures they don't like, as if a human organization would never have either waste, inefficiencies or things in that some people don't like and others do ... as if changing those would change the result. Anyone insisting on perfection in a human organization of more than zero people is doomed to unsatisfiable frustration.

    But take up the story, you would need to find 15,000 (!) examples of $100,000 in waste and inefficiencies to get $1.5B (10% of the budget) in savings. So, failing that, you have to either cut programs or increase revenues.

    The best way to increase revenues is to increase incomes, but our national policy has favored cheap imported goods. borrowing and paying the richest even more instead of being more productive as a nation. That's why we need more investment and not more tax cuts: our problem isn't that taxes are too high, it is that incomes are too low (and, thanks to the recession, losing jobs).

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    I have to say that living in Gresham, I talk to people about taxes all the time. And Steve is 100% correct in that people don't understand how much money is coming in, where it comes from, or what it is spent on. It's true at the state level as well as the local level.

    When I get people say "xx" should be cut from the budget so that we can get rid of the deficit, it's always interesting their reaction when you point out how much is actually spent on that item. People have a lot of misunderstandings about the budget.

    I deal with it a lot in regards to the City of Gresham's budget. Which is why when I'm out talking to people, I like to bring up the budget. Most people are shocked to find out how small Gresham's budget is - and that only about half of that comes from their property taxes. I have people give me estimates on how big the general fund is, how much is spent on specific services, etc. The numbers have always been in the $80-250 million area. In fact, the city's general fund is just over $40 million.

    The more we can do to educate people about taxes, budgets, etc., the better. And we have to find innovative ways of doing this, rather than relying on pie charts in newspapers that are only read by those of us who are already educated on the topic.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    Lets see, anyone who opposes illegals is xenophobic or racist. Anyone who supports increasing public spending is a socialist and Barack Obama is a secret Muslim bent on destroying America. Now that we got the name calling out of the way, can we continue on with the discussion....

  • mp97303 (unverified)


    Every year I get an annual report from Salem Electic. In the center of the report is a graphic show where revenue comes from and what the expenses are. They represent it in the form of a dollar bill cut up by percentages.

    I think every household in Oregon should receive this from the state. It would make it very easy to understand. Also, they could provide links where we could find easy to read details of the spending in each category.

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    No, lumping everyone who doesn't speak English well into the "illegals" category is what's wrong.

    And we forget that kids born here are U.S. citizens. It doesn't matter the legal status of their parents, they are citizens. And they deserve a good education just like a kid whose family goes back to the founding of this country.

    And to the oft-repeated line about them not paying taxes... Does that mean the kids of poor families don't deserve an education either? Many poor families pay no income taxes.

    Also, I can tell you that when we applied for food stamps and WIC back in 2003 when I was laid off, we had to provide Social Security cards for everyone listed in the paperwork, and DLs or ID cards for all adults. All information was verified, which is why you couldn't immediately get assistance.

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    Exactly. Something like that would work great. I think it would be easy for local jurisdictions to put that report into something they already send, like a water bill. Other jurisdictions could figure out the best way to do it for them.

    The worst way to do it is in those newsletters that cities, counties, etc. like to send. Very few people ever actually look at them.

    I always liked Steve's idea of a thank you letter/card that included the information.

    We just have to do something. I know here in Gresham the only way we're going to be able to fund our city in a reasonable manner is to educate the public.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    @Kari:But I entered kindergarten with minimal English language skills, since my mother raised us speaking Finnish at home.

    I am curious as to how the system handled you. I know growing up a product of the Salem-Keizer SD in the mid70's to mid80's, I don't recall there being any non-english speaking students in my schools. I know Salem had a huge influx of SE Asian students around that time, but when I met them they all spoke English.

    Thanks for the info

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    Mike -- We do know from polls that there are some people who change their minds in response to raw facts. One example was a poll on foreign aid in the mid-90's that showed that 64% of Americans wanted to cut foreign aid, but that # dropped to 35% when people were told it was less than 1% of the Federal budget.

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    Rick is trying to point out the fact the this state has an ESL program here that has an 80% failure rate. We spend about $630 million per year on this program. Steve has written this article about Oregon's budget.

    How is the "80% failure rate" quantified, exactly? Please inform.

    Where does the $630 million figure come from? What are the line items covered by that figure? How much more or less would it cost for english immersion? Given the failure of English immersion programs in Arizona, why would we adopt them in Oregon?

    It seems like the program in Forest Grove School District works very well. Students are put into an english/spanish track when they enter kindergarten (at the choice of the parents). One day they are taught all in english, the next day all in spanish. Textbooks and other materials are in both languages and used in the requisite classroom.

    I think the main hitch in FGSD is that (I believe) only students who enter the district in kindergarten are allowed to enroll in that track. I don't know how the problem of older students can be handled more effectively.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    @Carla: From your link:"Advocates for bilingual instruction contend children should be taught in both their native language and English, so they can keep up academically while they learn English. In two to three years of bilingual instruction, Spanish-speaking children typically are ready to learn from all English instruction."

    If 2-3 years is all it takes, great. I would have no problem with a 3 year bi-lingual program. What many object to is schools that never transition students out of bi ed.

  • Bob D. (unverified)

    We do know from polls that there are some people who change their minds in response to raw facts.

    Steve, are you trying to claim this represents critical thinking on their part as a result of become more knowledgeable? Or simply a reactionary act to the poll questions as present that one normally not view as being better informed?

  • LT (unverified)

    First of all, I don't think several hundred people reacting to a poll represents what all Oregonians think--about anything.

    Second of all, knowledge of exactly how government programs work is not necessarily equal among all legislators. My state rep. did not understand how a particular Oregon problem worked but the reaction was not "gee something to look into". It was "if you want to change it, do you have a draft?".

    After a couple clairifying questions it turned out this was a legislator saying "if you don't like how it works, do you have draft language written out to change it?".

    As I told a friend, I was polite and did not respond "Uh, isn't that your job?".

    We have a bigger deficit than money in this state--I think we have a real problem with people who have let fights over ideology make them intellectually lazy.

    The newly remodeled capitol office wings are beautiful and look like a professional office building rather than offices with green fabric cubicle dividers, bright colored furniture, as well as plumbing and wiring that was becoming hazardous to the health of those in the building. That didn't happen because people debated whether something was a fact, or ideological debates.

    It came because the Public Comm. on the Legislature, many legislators and staff worked very hard for a long time doing the work (incl. attending meetings and getting into debates about the project) to make that happen.

    One more thing. I know there are those who believe everyone in a public school should speak English and only English. A close friend of mine grew up in a bilingual household--Greek/English--and is glad she did. A high school friend of mine was born in an E. European country taken over by Nazis before she was born and Communists after she was born. Eventually her parents got the family out of the country and they ended up in the US. She was tri-lingual. One of our high school language teachers who had graduated from college in E. Europe was multi-lingual.

    And of course Cong. Wu is bilingual Chinese/English. I think that is a good thing to know more than one language, although most of the foreign languge I learned in school I have long forgotten.

    This is the website of a local school that is dual immersion--students graduating will be bilingual English-Spanish, which local parents thought was a good idea.


    Now someone like Rick may not like that idea, but is he saying those parents were wrong and should let him make their decisions for them?

  • ron king (unverified)

    One of the problems of declining state revenue is that there will be no economic recovery until revenue to the government increases. This is why we must act now to increase taxes dramatically.

  • (Show?)


    Both my husband and my sister-in-law spoke Vietnamese upon entering elementary school in Sandy, Oregon. There are definitely a good number of kids who are citizens who enter school speaking another language.

  • Troy (unverified)

    The high cost of fuel this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. After a brief reprieve gas prices are inching back up again. Our nation should not allow other nations to have such power over us and our economy . We have so much available to us in the way of technology and free sources of energy. WE seriously need to get on with becoming an energy independent nation. We are spending billions upon billions in bail out dollars. Why not spend some of those billions in getting alternative energy projects set up. We could create clean cheap energy, millions of badly needed new green jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil all in one fell swoop. I just read an eye opening book by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to drive and charge an electric car.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Why don't we use some of the billions in bail out money to bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil? This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come. www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com

  • Bob D. (unverified)

    Steve, has this thread gone the way you expected? Are you finding this audience demonstrating that if you just provide them more information about the budget they will intelligent, perceptive, rationally-formed opinions that could inform the 2009 legislative session? Much less about the intellectual and ethical merits of your thesis?

  • Rick Hickey (unverified)

    Carla & others, Here...

    Oregon missing goal in teaching English as a second language Posted by srainey December 16, 2008 21:28PM The Oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2008/12/oregon_missing_goal_for_fluent.html

    Oregon schools fall short in getting students to become fully proficient in English as their second language.

    The Oregon Department of Education reported Tuesday that after five years of learning English as a second language in Oregon schools, only one in five students had learned to read, write and speak it fluently by spring 2008.

    How well schools help English learners master their new language is significant for Oregon because the state has nearly 70,000 students learning English as their second language. They are the fastest growing segment of the school population and account for nearly one of every eight students in public schools.

    But every school district with a large population of non-native English speakers missed the state's goal of "50 percent fully proficient within five years" by a wide margin

    This IS Immersion not Bilingual...

    Gladstone succeeds with English learners by tying the lessons in English grammar, vocabulary and structure directly to the content that students are learning in their science, reading, math and social studies classses, says Petra Hoghova, coordinator of that district's English language learners program.

  • Rick Hickey (unverified)

    And here...

    English Language Learner Programs Showing Poor Results BY ROB MANNING OBP http://news.opb.org/article/3810-english-language-learner-programs-showing-poor-results/ Portland, OR December 16, 2008 5:51 p.m.

    While many Oregon schools are concerned with the bad weather and icy road conditions, a new state report out today gives them one more reason to worry.

    Programs to teach Oregon school children who don’t speak English at home are showing poor results. Advocates for immigrant children are calling for smarter spending and tougher consequences for failing schools. Rob Manning reports.

    Castillo is trying to explain why nearly 80 percent of these districts missed the mark for moving students out of ELL programs.

    Maria Lisa Johnson is not moved by the explanation. She’s with the Coalition for Educational Excellence - an advocacy group for immigrant and minority students. Maria Lisa Johnson: “The benchmarks for what schools are to achieve, are really quite low. And yet, despite that, English Language Learners are still not served well by districts across the state.”

    But Portland parent and activist, Marta Guembes, says underachieveing ELL programs are old news. Marta Guembes: “This is going to keep going. We’re not even talking about a new thing. This is becoming, we’re talking about decades of this cancer, that no one has been able to stop.”

    Guembes filed a civil rights complaint against Portland public schools. She says no one is getting tough on ELL problems.

    Marta Guembes: “If they’re not being accountable, I think they should remove the monies, or they should fire a lot of people, and get people who can really work.”

    But there is some measure of accountability coming to districts with more than a few hundred ELL students -- like Portland, Beaverton and Salem-Keizer. 49 districts have reached their fourth year of failing to hit ELL targets.

  • davidg (unverified)

    The problem with Steve's article is that the blizzard of numbers tells you nothing. Ok, the state spends all its money on the categories of health, education, public safety, et al. Don't you want all of these things? If so, then, he assumes, you have to support all public spending as now constituted.

    Of course there is no category in the state budget called "rathole" which could be cut. But that does not mean that everything now being done is done effectively. The New York poll results reflect a public perception that current spending is not effective. New Yorkers may not know how to change that, but lumping spending into generalized categories of health, education, safety, et al, doesn't prove that present spending practices should continue. Steve's argument seems to be that because present spending practices have good intentions, therefore they should be continued. I think we can all see the error in logic there.

  • LT (unverified)

    David G., you have a point.

    I was listening to the Solis hearings --confirmation hearings for the nominee for Labor Secretary. She was asked specifically about WIA (Workforce Investment Act) and in her response she talked about how it was up for renewal and she understood some of the members had concerns about that renewal and had ideas on streamlining the system to make it more effective. Anyone dealing with the unemployment bureaucracy or otherwise interacting with the State Employment Dept. knows that WIA has a lot to do with how things are organized there.

    Steve said, "An important thing to remember about the human services categories is that most of them have "Federal matches" attached to them."

    OK, but does that address the effeciency of the programs--or is implementation less important than the fact the programs exist?

    Steve talks about a budget exercise for students to learn how the budget is balanced.

    I'd suggest another model--in the movie DAVE, he invites his friend the accountant to look over the books of the Federal government. The changes he suggests lead to finding the money to save a worthwhile program.

    Of course, implementation is a nitty-gritty problem where details matter, as opposed to the debate over philosophy of government. It is hard work.

    Kind of like all the hard work the Public Comm. on the Legislature put in discussing details of all facets of the legislature as opposed to Speaker Snodgrass making that famous budget remark "our caucus has decided on a number for school funding" as if HOW the money was spent was of secondary importance.

    Anyone who wants to read the PCOL report can go here http://landru.leg.state.or.us/pcol

    There are debates on school boards and elsewhere about HOW things are done. Why is one high school built recently more technologically equipped than the older high schools? We passed a local school bond recently but only after the Supt. was willing to go to living rooms and other venues all over the school district and discuss such questions.

    Thank you davidg. There was something unsettling about Steve's approach but I couldn't put my finger on it until I read your comment.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    It's interesting that I read almost exactly the opposite on a Brit site today. Seems a majority there want a 46% income tax bracket, largely to penalize high street interests for the banking fiasco.

    Leads me to the conclusion that our vaunted "classless" society is responsible for the difference. In a classed society the corporate raiders can't change into civies and blend into the crowd to effect an escape. That's the diff, isn't it? NYers don't want "our taxes" raised, but the Brits are saying "out with their wallets". One reason the illusion of the melting pot persists despite best evidence, perhaps.

  • Will Neuhauser (unverified)

    The "efficiency" folks are missing the point about closing state budget deficits. Those are numbers like 10% of the budget, not a million or two million or ten or a hundred. Oregon's budget at $15B would mean finding $1.5B in efficiencies. It would take 1,500 efficiency improvements of $1M to close the gap. Good luck with that!

    But, that doesn't mean that finding those inefficiencies isn't important. They should be constantly worked on. But they won't close the gap. An nor will cutting small-potato elements of the budget, like the entire parks and natural resources since that's only about 2%. Cutting "essential services" will always have to happen in our budget. Or raising revenue. Or some mix.

    Now, you can argue that some of the essential services aren't essential and can be cut, but then you have to come up with specific proposals, not a generic complaint.


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