Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728 900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
State Seal
E-Newsletter 7/16/11
Politics are often characterized as the "art of the possible’. This "art" requires compromises to be made between opposing positions in order to move policy forward. Concessions are made wherein one position agrees to support policy that they would not otherwise agree to, in order to gain the backing of others for policies that they do support. Too often the result is trading what is not wanted for what is not needed. The process almost always leads to mixed outcomes and unintended consequences. The extensive education package recently adopted by the Legislative Assembly is a good example of both good policy, and not so good policy, being enacted through this "art of the possible" process.

The K-12 education enterprise has become a virtual monopoly. Like all monopolies, it provides poor service at a high cost while resisting innovation and demonstrating a morbid fear of competition. The education package addresses this reality by significantly improving school choice. The most significant bill enacted allows parents to transfer their students to any public school district that agrees to accept the student. Other bills expand charter school opportunities by allowing sponsorship by institutions of higher education and by expanding the opportunities to enroll in virtual school districts.

The education package includes a number of policy changes that will enhance existing public schools. The Educators Preparation Improvement Fund will provide additional funding for training teachers and administrators and includes accountability and performance standards for both. Other bills expanded vocational training opportunities, provided grants to school districts to enhance the education of talented and gifted students and provide better funding for remote elementary schools.

The education package adopted several conceptual bills designed to test, or create future improvements in education policy. One bill establishes the education goal that 40 percent of all students will earn a bachelors degree, 40 percent will achieve an associates of arts degree, and the remaining 20 percent will obtain a high school diploma. Another bill established full day kindergarten for all Oregon students beginning in the 2015 school year. This bill did not provide a source of funding that, if enacted today, would cost about $300 million to accomplish in this budget cycle. Additional bills provide school districts that are members of four specific Education Service Districts to withdraw from that ESD while taking 90 percent of their funding with them, and a bill that reduces all ESD funding by a quarter of a percent.

Two bills advanced by governor Kitzhaber that significantly shift authority over the entire Oregon education enterprise to the executive were adopted in the education package. SB 552 designates the Governor as the state superintendent of education as soon as the incumbent superintendent leaves her position. SB 909 creates the Oregon Education Investment Board to be appointed by the Governor and intended to replace both the Oregon Board of Education and the Oregon Board of Higher Education. This Board is intended to have significant authority over how education curriculums are established and how funding is distributed among the different levels of the state education enterprise. The bill also created another board to oversee the Early Learning Council that is designed to consolidate at least seventeen current education and health care programs for pre-school children.

Finally, the education package included spending authorizations designed to both fund some of the programs and to encourage political support for other program objectives. Unfortunately, the spending authority virtually obliterated our state reserves in the Rainy Day Fund and the Education Stability Fund. Those combined reserves were drawn down to only $36 million which is about two tenths of one percent of the total General Fund and Lottery budgets. This is a ludicrously inadequate reserve given the instability in our state and national economies.

In my opinion, the adoption of the education package amounted to a sea change in Oregon's public education enterprise. On the positive side it established unprecedented opportunities for school choice and created some accountablitiy and performance standards for teachers and administrators. It also created some admirable goals and pilot programs. On the negative side it ceded too much legislative authority over education funding and management to the governor, and it irresponsibly spent virtually all of out state reserves during a time of significant economic instability.

Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon... no one will.

Best Regards,


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