Public Education Front and Center

Paulie Brading

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:

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.

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    HB 3645 adds a Proposed Sponsor of a charter school.

    (c) An institution of higher education listed in ORS 352.002, the Oregon Health and Science University,or a four year, nonprofit, generally accreditied institution of higher learning based in Oregon and operating in Oregon.

    In practice a school board can reject a charter school proposal. The proposal can then be resubmitted to the Oregon Department of Education. If the proposal meets the standards required by ODE it approves the charter.

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      and once a Proposed Sponsor has a charter approved, they can open as many charters as they want with no further vetting from any source. a corporation need only set up a non-profit entity & booyah, money machine. unless you show me otherwise, 3645 is reason enough to sink this package. if the various bills are good bills, pass them on the merits. i didn't see a package of environmental bills, or civil rights bills. but to ram thru some bad education bills, we hold good bills hostage?

      and BPA just lays in the corner to die.

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        I just wanted to clarify that almost all of the bills on the list will be amended from their original form.

        HB 3645 will be amended to only allow a public community college or public university in Oregon to be an alternate sponsor. The Charter School will have to apply to the local school district first. Each public higher ed institution is only allowed 1 school, and the law will sunset after 5 years (while grandfathering in any schools that have been chartered to allow students to continue to attend).

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      HB 2301 is substantially recommendations from the Oregon State Board of Education. Rep. Gelser deserves a lot of credit for her work on this topic and this bill.

      HB 3474 sets up a fund to pilot programs that would link teacher preparation and school districts more closely. Rep. Komp has been working with colleges of education on this effort for years now, and a number of deans of colleges of education in Oregon testified or submitted testimony in support.

      Not sure where your descriptions are coming from, but they don't seem to match what is actually in the legislation under consideration.

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        i have no problem with this bill. i have huge problems with 3645 which we've already defeated once & must never become law. and i have a huge problem with Republicans killing bills like the plastic bag ban (supported by a majority or Oregonians AND legislators) and Tuition Equity -- and then demanding the Dems give them crappy bills like 3645 in order to pass 909 & others. they'll just keep pushing more & more anti-education bills in this way. it's time to stop this rolling over and letting them get away with gutting public education. this package stinks.

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    Not to mention the direct financial pipeline??? From Our Oregon:

    Look At That Smile: Matt Wingard’s Plan to Line His Pockets with Your Tax Dollars In the closing days of the legislative session, lawmakers are working behind closed doors on last-minute education bills—most of which are opposed by teachers and education advocates. Most of these bills have received no public process or input, and their fate depends on backroom deals.

    While tense negotiations over these bills have drawn most of the headlines, there’s one important story the press hasn’t even begun to tell: The close financial ties between the chief Republican negotiator on the bills and a large corporation that would benefit from them passing.

    [Click here to read our whole expose at the Sockeye Blog]

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    here's the actual url for sockeye..

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    Since Measure Five and the shift in funding to the State of Oregon it's become clear that there is no accountability in the way local districts, their superintendents, and their school boards spend resources. In the Tigard -Tualatin School Dist. there were zero layoffs in the Admin. building, ZERO-while scores of teachers were sent packing, entire programs eliminated. At the same time they eliminate the Chinese language program they restore the golf program at Tualatin HS. No athletic cuts at all. The Tigard HS principal cuts the media specialist/librarian position entirely putting his facility in danger of losing their accreditation, both for the High School and for the Baccalaureate program.

    Honestly, Paulie, how can school boards claim with any honesty how there is a constitutional responsibility to fund education, then spend those funds on athletic programs that benefit the few. The unspoken truth is that school board elections are a popularity contest and not about deciding real education policy. One of these days I wish some group would litigate the constitutionality of requiring Oregon citizens to fund HS sports programs while real academics are decimated. Teachers get fired and classes eliminated, while golf is restored!! Give me a break!

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      Bill, you almost sound like you’re advocating for charter schools. Some citizens (arguably most citizens as reflected by board elections) place a significant value on sports programs. And clearly, some citizens do not. A uniform public school system forces everyone to accept the same priorities whereas charter schools allow people to pursue their interests. Which is more plausible, finding a hard core academic charter school or your plan to defund school sports?

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        Finding a "hard core academic charter school" won't free up more money in Oregon for classroom use. It will merely send some local tax money to the charter school you chose.

        Eliminating OSAA and making sports a community responsibility (akin to little league) would free up LOTS of money for librarians and classroom instruction.

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          And if you eliminate sports, how much higher would the dropout rate go?

          We may not like it, but sports are what's keeping lots of kids in school.

          The notion of "community"-only support is nothing more than a euphemism for killing 'em. There are less than a dozen communities in this state that could afford to privately fund football even if they wanted to - and zero communities that would be likely to be able to develop 100% private support for sports other than football and boys basketball.

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            Athletics needs to be club based and privately funded. That's what is done in most other countries and tax payers need to be relieved of the burden of paying for coaches, buses, stadiums and all the rest of the idiocy. If communities want sports entertainment, let them pay for it.

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            I see. And band, drama, libraries, home ec, shop, computer labs, and any class but the 'three R's' don't? Yet we have no problems tossing electives in the bin the second there is a shortfall, yet it's a mortal sin to touch Football??

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              Did I say that? Oh no, I didn't say any such thing.

              When I was in high school, I was part if a group that advocated for (and won) varsity letters for activities like speech, debate, theatre, language clubs, etc.

              So, no, I'm not a football uber alles sort.

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                Okay, then. I do agree, but the point still stands. It is the extracurricular stuff that keeps kids in school, yet art, music, drama, computer, shop, cooking, and many other classes have already been cut. Sports are just about the last thing left. There was a recent O article on the cuts in the Forest Grove (my alma mater) school district's cuts. Foreign languages gone, all lower-school librarians gone, music, art, technology classes removed, closing down of elementary schools, forcing them to be bussed to another 10 miles away... and this is the fairly affluent bedroom community of Forest Grove. I think this is indicative of the conditions all over the state. Schools aren't wasting money, they are strangled of resources to the point where they can barely operate.

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          I see it as a question of preference. There isn't majority support for eliminating OSAA, what Bill suggested is imposing that choice in the face of public opposition. There are circumstances where that is appropriate such as civil rights issues, but this isn't a civil rights issue. It's just a preference for one priority over another. There is something off about proclaiming support for public schools while discarding public preferences when they disagree with your own.

          I'm probably reading too much into this, but as a PPS parent the problem of reconciling personal and public preference is big on my mind.

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        Actually no, I think charter schools have proven to be mostly a scam for every agenda ridden organization to get money. I support a strong public neighborhood school program. I just think that school boards and superintendents have proven themselves grossly dysfunctional as a means of administering our school system.

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      Bill--it's not just Tigard-Tualatin that has zero layoffs in the Admin building. One district is proposing layoffs of all counselors below the high school level.

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    Interdistrict transferring (HB 3681) is critically important for all the kids who are currently suffering at their in-district public school and need to transfer to thrive and find the joy of learning again! Keeping kids engaged in their education and striving to learn is the key for their future and our state's future. For a variety of reasons, there are times when students need the freedom of choice to transfer to a different school to succeed. For families who do not have the financial means to pay for private schools, the ability to transfer is vital! Currently, school districts deny transfers in order to retain state funds even when the health and well being of the child are at risk!!! HB 3681 will solve this situation and help kids!

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      I get somewhat nervous when I see advocacy for a position expressed in multiple exclamation marks, as that usually means emotion and not reason is the basis for the advocacy. As it is, there's a process in place for transferring within schools in a district--it's called waivers. Some districts have open enrollment possibilities as well.

      And yes, there are times when a different environment is preferable. However, parents have options under the current system, including a choice to move toward home schooling or home tutorial instruction.

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        Not every district currently allows waivers to attend another district. If they did, we would not need HB3681. 

        There is a wide range of reasons parents seek these transfers, it is not a decision taken lightly. Home schooling or tutoring may work for some, but it is simply not a solution for all students.

        Districts in Oregon that allow waivers upon request say it works well. Salem-Keizer SD moved to this system years ago. Fourteen other states have proven this works. 

        The original bill (SB745) was introduced as a bipartisan effort with champions within both parties. Interdistrict transfers are a common constituent issue our legislators must deal with and many recognize the need for change. 

        HB3681 utilizes our existing K-12 system while more fully engaging parents as partners in their children's education.

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      Except for extreme examples, there should be no reason to need to transfer. More, on a larger scale, transferring out of a school does help the individual student, but ultimately drains resources from the struggling school, and strains the resources of the attractive one.

      A far more realistic solution is to work on the struggling schools and help them out. And the majority of time, that means making more money available. Which will never happen. Which only throws more fuel on the fire for the transfer arguments.

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        1. We need to continue to work to ensure no school within our system is allowed to struggle. Adequate funding and support for our K-12 system is vital to the health and well-being of the entire state.

        2. Providing for #1 will not eliminate the need for interdistrict transfers. Not every school is the right fit for every learner or every family's needs.

        Yes, the need for interdistrict transfers are rare (states offering options similar to HB3681 find utilization is frequently less than 1%), but we do need to provide parents with the option instead of battling them when they make the request. Each district would be able to decide whether to accept additional students, so movement would likely be fairly limited in Oregon as well.

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          The question is that aside from rare occasions (the Commencement Prayer student in Florida, and the Cheerleader who protested cheering her own rapist spring to mind) I don't see this being used in any way but for parents putting their kids in different schools because they heard the rumor that their local school might not be as good.

          If we did #1, then the vast majority of transfers needed would be cut. Yes, there will always be extreme examples where children might have to go to another school due to social, financial, legal, religious, race, or other issues, that is the vast, vast, vast exception to the rule.

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    Right on, Kari!

    The seemingly only bill in the legislature which is of great impact to education in Oregon is full-day kindergarten. And can we afford it?

    Most of the rest are either pretty destructive or non-enitities.

    For instance, how much will it matter if the Governor heads up education in Oregon? Heck, he has no idea of how to make it work anyway. Did he teach school somewhere? Here are the Oregon problems other than money; which do you think he is qualified to address as a leader and which do you think his new committee would address:

    An over emphasis on testing which narrows the curriculum and spends millions which hurt education more than it helps.

    Specific problems in lower socio-economic schools, particularly in east county and NE and North Portland. He is going to get them a more vibrant, comprehensive, and relevant curriculum, more engaging activities and electives, and solve their family problems? Plus, he is going to revamp courses which are directed at industrial arts, technology, and the trades?

    Trying to hold teachers more accountable, instead of the reverse,giving them more autonomy which automatically makes them better teachers.

    Encouraging schools to broaden their educational options by dumping the standards movement and returning to the idea of time allotments to make sure certain courses are truly offered, like history, geography, science etc.

    These are the pressing problems in Oregon education. None will be addressed by whomever is running things so it makes little difference if things don't pass.

    Two more comments. 1) Letting kids go wherever they want to school was tried in Portland. It destroyed the lower socio-economic schools which lost kids to the more well-to-do schools. As less kids stayed, then the school had less resources. PPS became a district of "haves" and "have nots". Who was the major leader in this awful and terribly classist approach to education? Well, Stand for Children, the white knight of the well-to-do. So don't tell me other organizations should follow Stand's lead in educational policy. They should not!

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    Whoops, left out two more big problems.

    The special education mess where kids often don't get the help they need or by our actions we disrupt the system itself.

    The ESL mess, where kids often don't get the help they need or we disrupt the system itself.

    Which of these two groups do you think is well represented in the Governor's inner circle?

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    I hope some agreement can reached to pass most of these reform education bills, to fund a pilot high school study abroad program in China, and generally to fund K-12 at a higher level.

    To me, the two keys to moving Oregon education ahead are (a) to use computers and the internet more effectively and aggressively, and (b) internationalize the curriculum by strengthening foreign language programs (immersion, online, study abroad, adding non-traditional languages). With one exception, none of the education reform bills touch on either of these issues.

    HB 2301, the online education bill, is a bad bill and would set the development of online education in Oregon back decades (and we are already a decade behind places like Florida). Special interests have hijacked it. Online education can be developed better without it. So, please leave it out of any agreement.

    I don’t think the reform bills are as significant as the proponents claim and certainly not as bad as opponents whine.

    I am for more money for education only it there are significant changes to the system.

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    There is mounting evidence ( and that charter schools do no better than public schools. In one of the studies cited above, about 17% of students did better, almost 50% were about the same, and 37% did worse than children in public schools. These proposals are too big to base the discussion on opinions or beliefs. Even the vaunted Harlem Children's Zone, portrayed in Waiting for Superman, has struggled with the same problems as other urban schools, while outspending them ( The idea of children as "victims" who are "suffering" in public schools is anecdotal, hyperbolic and not supported by data. I am hoping someone can help me understand better the notion that making the state superintendent's office an appointed one will improve education in our state. What will insulate the appointments from politicization, cronyism and all the other issues related to political appointments? Why is this better than keeping it an elective office and have there been any other ideas for how to do this? Has it worked better in other states? I have read the bill and it appears that in fact the bill makes the Gov. the state superintendent who then appoints a Deputy Superintendent who (I assume) then runs the Department. Is that correct?

    Along with combining the funding "silos," how will concentrating money and power into fewer (mega) agencies make education better? What data support these two ideas?

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    HB 3362 is a bill that has taken decades to get to this point. It also focuses on funding career and technical education in Oregon. It has bi-partisan support in the Legislature. It has support from business and industry, unions, and would bring money to Oregon public schools to establish or expand CTE classes. It is the right bill at the right time.

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    One of the best education reformers I have ever heard (and forgive me, it's been long enough that I have forgotten the name) suggested high school graduation this way: Give the student a newspaper and a bit of time to read one of the front page articles on it. Then, they have to go and discuss the article and the event they are reporting on in a complex, reasonable way. As a yardstick of basic education, this is a very nice standard. Not only does it test the student's basic abilities to read and comprehend, it more importantly tests their ability to think critically and frame a discussion. More so then reading Grapes of Wrath or learning Algebra, this, I feel, is the hallmark of a real education. To be able to take in, digest information, and to apply it.

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