Sunday, December 30, 2012

Education Reform (Real VS. Phony) and How Upcoming Events Will Help You Distinguish the Difference

Education Reform (Real VS. Phony) and How Upcoming Events Will Help You Distinguish the Difference

Many of us involved in Oregon SOS are thrilled about a number of experiences this January that will help to create what we hope is a larger dialogue on the subject of public education reform. (With our personal interest being that this moves more people to press for and create reforms that are GOOD for students and learning.) Please mark the dates/times below and make sure to attend!

Oregonian Susan Mach, a teacher at Clackamas Community College, a parent of a Portland Public School student and now an award-winning playwright, has two plays opening at the same time in January, both professionally produced by theater companies in Portland. The original Oregon SOS folks met Sue at our first organizing meeting at the end of August 2011 and she mentioned something about writing a play on education reform, so it has been great to see how this has developed into the play that many are now talking about produced by Third Rail Repertory Theatre: A Noble Failure. (If you want to catch her other play, which also sounds fantastic (not about education reform) you can read about it here.) Many of us saw A Noble Failure when it was in its reading stage, and we were struck with how this artistic format brought a complex subject to life and opened the floor to greater dialogue. We cannot wait for opening day, January 11th!

In conjunction with the opening of the play, Brian Jones has been brought out courtesy of Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, and Clackamas Community College. Brian is a teacher, actor,  activist, who is also pursuing a PhD in urban education and was featured in the documentary The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.  Brian lives and works in New York City, and while Oregon, or even Portland, is not quite like NYC in many regards, there are still striking similarities to what is happening in NYC to what is happening in Oregon and elsewhere around the country in regards to education reform. We need to learn from these experiences and create “real reforms” that create quality, public education for all students. Come hear from Brian how he and other activists are pushing for real reform in NYC and let's start working towards building a stronger, united effort for positive reforms in Oregon. 

Here is a chronological list of events and related information:

Sunday, January 6th, 7-8:30PM:
Showing of the movie The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
COST: FREE (please purchase a beverage and/or snack to support the venue)
LOCATION: Velo Cult, 1969 Northeast 42nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97213
Oregon SOS will show the film and follow with a discussion that connects the reforms and characters in the film with their Oregon counterparts. Don't miss this discussion and chance for Q&A with people who have been delving into the weeds on Oregon education reform! This film and discussion will also give you valuable information for the other events that follow.

Thursday, January 10th, 5:30-7PM (reception) and 7:30-9:30PM (play preview & “talk back”)
Special reception to meet Brian Jones (and possibly Susan Mach!)
LOCATION: Reception: First Unitarian Church, 1211 SW Main St., Portland, OR 97205
Play Preview: Winningstad Theatre, 1111SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205
REGISTRATION: Register free here (It is one registration for this reception AND the play)

Friday, January 11th, 5-6:30PM
Public Forum with Brian Jones: Real VS. Phony Education Reform
COST: FREE (donations appreciated); if you need childcare, contact
LOCATION: Redeemer Lutheran, 5431 NE 20th, Portland, OR 97211
REGISTRATION: Register free here

Friday, January 11th, 7:30-9:30PM
Opening Night of A Noble Failure
COST: Tickets can be purchased here  For 30% off the single ticket price, call 503-235-1101 and use the education promo code: FIXING

Sunday, January 20th – a special panel discussion is in the works for this afternoon's performance of A Noble Failure. We will let you know as soon as we have more info.

The play runs from January 11-February 3. Don't forget to use the special promo code for discounted tickets, and if you work in education, you can attend the special preview night for free.

We hope you can attend one or more of these events and please spread the word so we may Educate, Agitate, and Organize in the best interest of students and our communities!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Oregon Reads: Left to Chance and Outsiders

by Joanne Yatvin

When wealthy individuals or foundations give grants to groups espousing new ideas in the public sector, no harm is done.  Even if those ideas fail miserably, the givers have plenty of money left to try again, and at least somebody got a job out of the venture.  But when a working person gambles his paycheck away, there’s nothing left to buy food for his family. Such is the case with Governor Kitzhaber’s Oregon Educational Investment Board (OEIB) bent on spending the money badly needed by Oregon’s schools on new bureaucracies, risky projects, and outside organizations.   

The latest iteration of this gambling obsession is the Oregon Reads proposal to offer grants to organizations and individuals to promote children’s reading.  No one claims that the goal is not worthy; it’s the means that are in question.  When so many of Oregon’s schools have outdated and diminished libraries that merely exist without trained librarians or ongoing programs to stimulate students’ interest in reading; when class sizes in many schools are so large that teachers cannot give individual attention to either struggling or advanced readers, and when qualified teachers are being laid off because school districts can’t afford to keep them, how can the OEIB even consider offering grants or contracts to outsiders on the chance that they will do something to improve children’s reading?

Let us be clear: Our opposition to this proposal is not based on OEIB’s perception of needs or goals.  We agree completely when it declares: “We must engage, empower and support families in culturally appropriate ways with the goal of providing every Oregon child, regardless of native language, with the foundational skills and experiences necessary to develop a life-long love of reading.” We also support its intention to partner with libraries, early learning providers, businesses, and local governments in this endeavor. As long as partnering means planning together, sharing expertise and facilities, and recruiting volunteers.  It is the act of handing over money through grants that do not involve participation or oversight that we find insupportable.

In its operation over the past year the Governor and the OEIB have consistently sought expertise and strategies from outside experts and organizations—at great cost-- while ignoring the vast knowledge and experience that exists within its own public schools throughout the state.  In doing so, it has also lessened the chances of any innovation or structural change being successful.  Teachers who feel dishonored and silenced in their professional work cannot give more than token compliance to top-down controllers and know-it-all experts who have never walked in their shoes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What We Can Learn from the Nike Experience: Keep Oregon in Check for the People

In any Civics or Government class any student has ever taken, one fundamental concept learned was that of checks and balances.  More often than not, it seems to work out.  We haven't really had to worry about the loss of the democratic  process....until lately.

Looking around, the laws of our country are being reshaped to favor those with corporate power and money versus the average citizen.  Sadly, the checks and balances we relied on with the judicial branch, the Supreme Court, failed us when corporations suddenly were deemed citizens by the law.

Here at Oregon Save Our Schools, we have been watching as the corporate education reform model with ties to ALEC and the Oregon Business Plan Playbook swiftly erode our democratic public school system as well.

When our Governor seeks a special session for Nike rather than one over education, one starts to see that the values of our state seem to have shifted, and not for the better.

Furthermore, a pattern has become clear with our Executive branch when one looks at such examples as education reform and funding, and now Nike: our Governor has his vision, his ideas, his values, and he will get them through one way or another --nevermind the democratic process.

We are in danger of losing our precious system which makes democracy work in Oregon when we continue to have decisions made by threats, summons, and with the dismissing of the public voice.

We have checks and balances for a reason: to keep one branch of our government from having too much power.

Recently, as our legislators came back for a special session for Nike and the Governor, decisions had to be made and quickly.  Amazingly enough, even the public was able to organize itself swiftly to share their opinions and concerns regarding the goal of this session.  Legislators had to make sudden decisions with limited information and pressure from the Governor to make this happen for Nike.

And it was notably, a hard decision for many of our legislators.  Many did try to affect change in a short span of time.  But it was tough.

Still, in the end, there were a few who stood up to such a process and recognized that our democracy is really what was at stake here.  Oregonians are typically for the public, for compromise, and for respect of all voices who have something to say.  We usually try to think things out and make reasonable decisions we can all live with as a community of Oregonians.

More legislators should have stood up to Governor Kitzhaber and Nike on the grounds that this process was not okay.  This was not an emergency.  We need to take our time, think things over, discuss pros and cons while not under such duress or short time frame.

And the next big decision for our legislators will be about our  public education system: do they question the Governor and the OEIB or follow his plan out of fear or politics? Will education get a special session?

Hopefully, our leaders have learned from this.  Hopefully the discussion and decisions made regarding the vision and values of our public education system will be given more thought, research, and consideration.  Hopefully good questions will be asked.  Hopefully the voice of the public will be honored and valued.  Hopefully enough time will be taken to think things through.

The public should not condone fear-based decision making.  We should not agree to handing over power to one branch of our government. We as Oregonians can do better than that.  We're a smart group of people.  But we are beginning to lose our way.  The public is depending on our legislators to provide some checks and balances that are necessary to retaining a healthy democracy. 

Let's get back to being an Oregon that takes care of its people in this next session.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Swooshes and Balances: Oregon's 21st Century Governance

Co-chairs Barnhart, Burdick and Berger and members of the Joint Interim Committee on Economic Development,

I am here on behalf of the Emergency Coalition Against Austerity and the affinity groups to which I belong: Tax Fairness Oregon and Oregon Save Our Schools.

The foremost reason this committee should oppose the Economic Impact Investment Act is because secret deals are decidedly undemocratic.  The democratic process demands a thoughtful debate. Having a public hearing to both introduce this bill and its amendments will not allow this.

But I will elaborate further on why this bill is bad. According to classical economic theory, Say’s Law states, “Supply creates its own demand.”[1] Accordingly, profit-seeking businesses will hire job seekers willing to work for a wage that doesn’t exceed their productivity.

Oregon businesses that hoard their profits in offshore shelters[2] and pay their executives exorbitantly[3] disrupt supply and demand. Why should Oregonians support tax favors for these corporations, especially when under- and unemployed Oregonians can’t buy their products?

Tax expenditures require only a simple majority vote. Raising revenue is far more difficult since a 3/5-majority vote is necessary.

If there is a silver lining to this special session, it’s that that Oregonians are beginning to understand that corporate tax loopholes are trade secrets. Favorable tax policy yields returns on investment for which the tax accountants and attorneys are well paid. According to the most recent data available[4], the New York Times estimates Oregon spends at least $865 million per year on incentive programs.

This figure does not include the economic benefits of the single sales factor method of apportionment! Alarmingly, this Act codifies the single sales factor for qualifying corporations for up to 40 years and enacts “action for a breach of a qualifying investment… against the State of Oregon.”[5]

Where are the clawbacks and penalties for corporations that don’t keep up their end of the bargain? For that matter, what is their end of the bargain?

It’s worthy to discuss proposed amendments as global remedies to address tax fairness. Oregonians need to know how this bill defines new job creation and sets quality standards. [6] These metrics must be reported in an easily accessible manner.[7] Reporting and disclosure[8] must be thorough and include a summary of the corporations’ total taxable income and amount of taxes paid in Oregon.  Any provisions of this Act deemed unenforceable in a court of law should not affect the validity or enforceability of other provisions in the Act.[9]

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously said, "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization." Unjust tax policy can be an act of barbarism.

Kris Alman

p.s. I apologize that the reader cannot "see" links to the amendments. They are simply not available. 

[3] $10.83 mil total compensation; $50.81 mil 5-year compensation
[6] See “Job Creation Standards” and “Job Quality Standards” amendments;
[7] See “Public Records” amendment
[8] See “Taxpayer Right to Know on Jobs Amendment (Reporting and Disclosure)”
[9] See “Severability” amendment

Friday, November 30, 2012

Governor Kitzhaber: Think Finland Not Oregon Business Plan

Finland is number one in the world when it comes to public education.  And all of Oregon's leaders, parents, teachers, and students should be asking why.

Oregonians seem to want more Finland, less No Child Left Behind, and less GERM.

This is supported by hearing and reading the public testimony made in response to the state's Education Funding Team (who, by the way,  met in secret rather than in public to make their list of priorities).

(read links to 11/7)
Community Forum Briefing
Community Forum Testimony Email
Community Forum Testimony Submitted at Location

Community voices mentioned small class sizes, strong school libraries, the importance of counselors, well-rounded education, less if not disappearance of standardized testing, affordable college tuition, and adequate funding.  In other words, more like Finland.

Instead, the public was ignored as noted in this Oregonian article dated November 7, 2012:

"But in a series of public hearings on those ideas, parents, educators and others mainly   ignored those strategies. Instead, more than 1,000 testified, and overhwhelmingly, they complained about big classes, high tuition, lack of counselors and many other things they see lacking in their schools and colleges."

The real questions that should have been at the forefront of any financial decision should have been this:  how much of the funding is going directly into our children's classrooms and schools to effect learning and benefit kids.  What are successful school models like Finland doing and what can we learn from them?  What does our public want and how do we fund it in a stable way?  How do we "take care of our own"?

Instead, none of this is found in Kitzhaber's plan.
Instead the Governor wants to have districts compete for money and prove what supposedly 'works.' Which then begs the question, "How is "what works" measured?"  Currently, for most students up until later in high school, it is standardized tests, and with the new Common Core State Standards, this will cost the state even more money.  Why not trust teachers to develop and judge assessments for their students?

Per the Oregonian article of Nov. 30th, 2012:

"He (Kitzhaber) said the money won't necessarily be spread evenly on a per-student basis, as most Oregon school funding is. He said school districts might have to compete for grants or that his chief education officer, Rudy Crew, might make discretionary awards."

How is this okay?  Shouldn't the state provide equal funding across the state and then add more for schools of poverty to equalize the playing field?  This is what Finland, the top education system in the world does.  Pasi Sahlberg on his blog post of April 22, 2012, states:

"First of all, although Finland can show the United States what equal opportunity looks like, Americans cannot achieve equity without first implementing fundamental changes in their school system. The following three issues require particular attention.
  • Funding of schools: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.
  •  Well-being of children: All children in Finland have, by law, access to childcare, comprehensive health care, and pre-school in their own communities. Every school must have a welfare team to advance child happiness in school.
  • Education as a human right: All education from preschool to university is free of charge for anybody living in Finland. This makes higher education affordable and accessible for all.
As long as these conditions don’t exist, the Finnish equality-based model bears little relevance in the United States."

This blog post by Salvatore Balbones also notes the strengths and values of the Finnish education model and how schools are funded:

"We could learn a thing or two from a country that consistently beats us on all those tests we seem to care so much about: Finland.  Finland has local control with national funding.  The poorer the district, the greater the national funding.  Finnish education encourages local experimentation by freeing local districts to focus on education rather than fundraising."

The other insult to the teaching profession, and other public employees, is the Governor's insistance that the funding will only work if there is reform to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).  What about corporate tax reform instead? The state cannot continue to try to create a budget on the backs of its public employees.  How is that good for our economy and public education?  In Finland, teachers are highly-trained, treated with respect, paid adequately, and are trusted to educate the children of their country.

Our Governor is clearly out of touch with the voices of the community who strongly opposed the Education Funding Team's recommendations on funding priorities. Rather than ask the experts such as teachers, parents, and students, Gov. Kitzhaber has surrounded himself with voices of the business community to make education policy decisions.  He feels Oregon's education system has to prove its worth to the business community instead of the other way around.

Our public education system is being set up for a corporate education reform takeover.  Time is running short, and we have to take it back.

It will take us contacting our legislators and demanding a resounding 'NO' most of the the Governor's recommendations.

We need to remind our Governor that this is a democracy, and he won't take our public education system without a fight. 

And we want more Finland because they get it right.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Teachers Give Race to the Top an "F"

By Adam Sanchez

The Portland Business Alliance , The Oregonian Editorial Board, and the Portland School Board  have lined up to denounce Portland teachers for refusing to sign on to the district's Race to the Top application. While they all claim to support Portland students, they are backing policies that would further deepen inequity and worsen educational experiences.

All of these editorials misleadingly leave out the fact that the Race to the Top grant cannot be spent to hire teachers or help with class sizes but instead must be dedicated to areas like professional development, which further adds to teacher workload, while not solving any of the real problems in our schools.

They also claim that the Portland Association of Teachers refused to collaborate with district administrators in crafting a Race to the Top Application and The Oregonian holds up Hillsboro as a model of collaboration. But both the Portland Association of Teachers and the Hillsboro Education Association told their district officials that they would only collaborate on an RTTT application if it did not include tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. The only difference is that Hillsboro administrators agreed to collaborate with their union, while Portland officials did not. Rather than craft a RTTT application based on the hundreds of places where we agree, the school board insisted on including the one thing we disagree on—tying teacher evaluation to student test scores.

So why are teachers opposed to tying our evaluations to test scores? If you've been reading Oregonian editorials you would think that we’re doing this because teachers don’t want to be held accountable and that those who dedicate their lives to working with children also happen to want horrible educational experiences for them. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Contrary to what these editorials have claimed, while state law currently mandates that “student growth” be part of teacher evaluation, the district’s Race to the Top application would take this one step further by implementing a value-added evaluation model that would label teachers “highly effective,” “effective,” or “not-effective” based on their students’ standardized test scores.

Several studies have shown that value-added models are highly unstable. Up to 35 percent of teachers move from being labeled "highly effective" one year to "not-effective" (or vice versa) the next.

But our stance against Race to the Top isn't just about rejecting an error-prone model of evaluation. It's about standing up for students, because our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Students will be hurt by further emphasis on standardized tests and by punishing good teachers who-- for reasons often outside of their control-- cannot improve their students’ standardized test scores. Because standardized tests tell more about a student's zip code than their academic ability, this model of test-and-punish unfairly labels public schools—and its students, parents, and teachers—as failures.

The single most important factor contributing to low student achievement is poverty. Study after study has shown that there is a strong correlation between family income and test scores. Those who have wealthy parents are at the top, and low-income students are at the bottom.
Evaluating teachers based on student test scores punishes teachers who choose to teach the least fortunate. Even value-added models that try to take into account student’s prior achievement assume that all students will improve at the same rate. This does not hold true for English Language Learners, students with disabilities or others who have traditionally performed poorly on tests.

And while teachers can play a crucial role in student success, evaluating teachers through standardized tests assumes that teachers can overcome any obstacle in students’ lives. But as educator Jesse Hagopian writes, "a student whose home is foreclosed on will not be able to do their economics homework. A student whose loved one has been killed in a war in the Middle East will have a difficulty connecting with the science teachers’ attempt to bring alive the learning of human body systems. A student whose parents have been deported will have difficulty crossing the barrier of the parent signature needed for a field trip to the civil rights museum. A student with parents who have been laid off may see their dream of going to college deferred for lack of funds. A student whose family lacks affordable health insurance may find themselves chronically absent from health class."   Societies ills don’t magically disappear the moment a student enters a school.

Race to the Top’s evaluation model isn’t about measuring teacher effectiveness, but driving a political agenda that weakens teachers’ job security, puts even more emphasis on standardized testing, and attacks teacher unions and public schools. The $400 million in RTTT funds that are being offered to districts is less than 1/25th of what Wall Street gave out in bonuses in 2011. If the federal governments can bailout the banks with virtually no strings attached, why can’t they fully fund our schools?

And at the state level we need real revenue reform. Oregon has a regressive income tax and one of the lowest corporate taxes in the nation. Yet in 2010 both the Oregonian and the Portland Business Alliance urged a "no" vote on Measure 66 and 67, that temporarily raised taxes on  the rich and corporations to fund our schools. It's clear that they only want money for our public schools when it doesn't inconvenience wealthy Oregonians.

We need to demand progressive income and corporate taxes that fund quality public education for all and aren’t attached to biased standardized test scores.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Testing: A Modest Proposal

by Steve Buel

Oregon Save Our Schools is against high stakes testing. As one of the founders I am too. It debases education and abuses our children. But for now it is a massive part of education in Oregon and America. Here’s a little something we could do to lessen the impact and still keep its proponents happy.
Let’s test children only every other year. We could divide the state’s school districts into even and odd year districts. Some districts would test in even years and some in odd years.
For openers it would save about five million dollars at the state level alone.  Lots of great stuff we could do with that money, like cutting class sizes or supporting school libraries or music programs.
And at the same time...
  •  the testing factions would still be happy. 
  • The state bureaucrats and corporate pseudo educators would still have plenty of lower socio-economic schools to label “failing".
  • The Oregonian could still write articles every year decrying the state of Oregon’s education. 
  • The suburban and urban mothers could still assure themselves their children are in the best labeled public schools. 
  • Stand for Children could still try to increase its Latino membership by telling Latino parents their kids aren’t that smart – heck, look at the tests. 
  • All Hands Raised and the builders of the OEIB dashboard would still have their data point markers to justify their work. 
  • Lots of data would still be floating around to be compromised by a longitudinal data base. 
Everybody would be happy. 
Especially the teachers and kids who every other year would not have to put up with the ridiculousness.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Where Our Money is Going--Not to Kids!

Of course, funding is an issue, but where's the money going?
 Oregon’s Education Funding Team Recommendations:  Let’s Run Some Numbers   

by Tom Olson of Oregon Save Our Schools        

Earlier this year, Governor Kitzhaber appointed an “Education Funding Team” to recommend investments in public education.  The Team has now unveiled a set of  recommendations crafted in six secret meetings, under the direction of a covey of highly-paid private consultants.  Kitzhaber ordered the Funding Team meetings to be closed to public scrutiny. (Salem Statesman-Journal, June 9, 2012). 

The Oregon Education Investment Board has now held six “public forums” around the state to get public reaction.  Reaction has been overwhelmingly incredulous and negative. 

Here are few numbers that might explain the reasons for the public outrage:

“$ 0”—that’s the amount of increase the Funding Team is recommending for state basic school support for the next biennium.  NOTHING!  The only investments proposed by the Funding Team are in more state bureaucracy and “order-giving.”  This Team apparently wasn’t bothered about the $3 billion gap between current funding and Quality Education level funding! Nor did they blink at the “F” grade given Oregon’s public education funding effort by a new national study by Rutgers University.  Nor did they worry that 7,000 teachers have been laid off in the past two years.  And apparently they’re quite satisfied that Oregon now ranks #37 among the states in per pupil funding (down from 15th a decade ago)

$225,000 ----that’s the amount of the private consultants’ generous state contract to run the 6 secret Funding Team meetings to craft the recommendations.  That’s a per-meeting consultant cost of $37,000!  Want another number?  $300----that’s the allowable per-hour consultant rate under this state contract.

“$100,000 and up”---that’s the salary level of five of eight of the new state bureaucrats hired by “Chief Education Officer” Rudy Crew  Remember also that Crew’s salary is  $280,000 per year plus an unbelievably generous array of benefits.

$50 million”---that’s the Funding Team’s recommended  “investment” in a state-run “longitudinal data system” that is incomprehensible---even to the Investment Board!  Maybe it’s incomprehensible because the system is  being designed by highly paid and out-of-touch consultants.

Gov. Kitzhaber and Dr. Rudy Crew need to listen to the voices of those who work closest to kids as well as the students themselves.  Based on testimony from around the state, such voices are clearly advocating for a much different set of priorities than what is coming out of the OEIB Funding Team. We need to hold them accountable for what we want for OUR public schools. Contact your legislators and tell them you are concerned.  Many voices of the public spoke to these issues--issues the Education Funding team are ignoring: class size, well-rounded programs such as library media specialists, art, music, PE, drama, and sports; more authentic assessments rather than high-stakes testing, no need for tracking student data--students are human beings, not numbers; more resources for our teachers, wrap-around services to help alleviate the effects of poverty, best practices in ELL and SPED services, and make college affordable!

Money should be going into our kids' classrooms not in the pockets of more bureaucracy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How OEIB Funding Priorites Hurt ELL Students

Here is the official testimony from an Oregon teacher regarding the funding priorities set forth by the Oregon Education Investment Board at their Salem public forum.  Pat Muller teaches English Language Learners (ELL) and is concerned about the impact the OEIB priorities would have on her students.

Dear OEIB Board:

I have been monitoring your public hearings about investment in education. It’s disappointing that so few of the Board members actually attend these meetings. I’m hoping to see a summary of these meetings posted from which you have been universally receiving negative feedback about many provisions of the funding plan for which you will probably move forward despite the fact of complete lack of transparency and public support.

You eloquently state that we will no longer have an achievement gap, yet your proposal only serves to reduce the funding necessary to provide services to special education students and English language learners. While class size increases across the state, expenditures increase for data collection, high-stakes testing, and new regional centers where mentors will show teachers how they can work even harder with fewer resources and achieve even better results.

*English Language Learner (ELL) funding*

We have come a long way from the days when anyone with an Hispanic surname was classified as ELL and funds dispersed to districts. We now have procedures for identifying ELL students and monitoring them throughout the process.

What is still lacking is accountability for how this money is spent. The money should be spent exclusively on services that directly benefit ELLs. Examples include: ELL specialists, ELL teaching assistants, professional development, intervention staff, translation services (to be supplemented from the general fund for students not classified as ELL but whose parents need services), ELL TOSAs to assist general education teachers in meeting the needs of ELLs outside of ELD class, and district office support for ELL staff.

ELL money should not be spent on anything that should be funded out of the general fund, including Spanish instruction for English speakers in dual immersion programs.

Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, we need a reporting method where districts are responsible to show that the money is being spent for its intended purpose. Only then, and with a transparent public process, should we look at how to more effectively fund and manage this budget.

The majority of districts are not meeting AMAO which has targets for: percentage of students moving up one proficiency level, percentage of students exiting the program, percentage of long term (>5 yrs) who are exiting the program, and percentage of students passing the OAKS reading and writing. Why is this happening? It is happening because the targets are not research-based and unattainable. And from this, we will be labeled as a failure.

The proposed ELL block funding will harm students. Districts will be pressured to exit students before they are ready as general fund resources diminish. Students on the margin of any exiting decision will also be exited.

You can’t claim we are over serving students. If that were true, our achievement numbers would look drastically different. Many students come to kindergarten speaking no English. So let’s say we are given 5 years of funding. Students would have to be exited before they enter middle school. Looking at the statewide achievement of ELLs at the middle and high school levels (dismal), we will no longer have funding for a program at those levels. *And since they will have been exited and are no longer classified as ELL, then VOILA!! We will have no achievement gap because the students will have been classified as general population! Good job Oregon!

Both middle and high school ELL programs would cease to exist under the proposal, except for a skeleton program for newcomers. Districts would retain the responsibility after the funding has run out, yet another unfunded mandate. In the middle of a school financial crisis across the state, this is the wrong time to reduce funding for our at-risk students.

The proposal states that there are places where students are exiting faster than the state average, implying that this could happen everywhere. Where exactly are these places and how did they do it? Would they be able to continue to do it under the new funding formula proposed? If you were disappointed with the number of sick people in a hospital, then pushing them out the door would not help. Saying that students who previously had to jump four feet now have to jump five feet doesn’t do a thing to get them over the bar.

I am an ELL teacher in a model elementary school. I guess that makes my testimony suspect as my job probably wouldn’t exist under the new funding proposal. I could always get another job, maybe working for the high-stakes testing industry, where there seems to be a large influx of money. But in the meantime, don’t mess with my students’ opportunity for a future, because this won’t happen on my watch.

Pat Muller

Oregon Save Our Schools

McMinnville Education Assocation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Voices from Coos Bay: OEIB Funding Forum

A teacher in Coos Bay sent this report along to Oregon Save Our Schools as he/she attended the Coos Bay OEIB Funding Priorities Forum.   What is clear is that the public was not supportive of the OEIB plan and again feel that the state needs to get back on track to having a serious discussion about how we will fund our schools and provide a well-rounded education.  
--Oregon SOS

There were about 80 people there.  I think 32 spoke out. It was cordial, but people spoke their minds and the audience (usually) clapped when the speaker was finished speaking.  There were no outright positive comments about the board and their work.  A couple people thanked them and said they had a difficult job.

People spoke about:
  • Funding
  • Stable funding
  • Library funding
  • Funding additional employees
  • Fixing and modernizing buildings
  • Decreasing class size
  • Helping the impoverished
  • Demoralized teachers
  • Not funding community colleges based on diploma/degree completion

Some speakers said the OEIB was not listening, that they were disappointed only one board member showed up, that the board needed to get into classrooms and see how policy is ‘hitting the ground,’ that the event should have been advertised (one woman said the only reason she knew about the meeting was from an ‘occupy’ email,) that there was a lack of trust (one person said, “I don’t trust you, and you clearly don’t trust me.”)

Below is testimony from Teri Jones who authorized using her speech here: 

Hi, I’m Teri Harris Jones, a member of OSEA and current chapter #33 president.  I am also a library media clerk for Madison Elementary School.

1.       I believe education employees are our greatest resource.  To achieve success with any initiative, to meet any standard, we must have a strong workforce, certified and classified.  Tonight I’m speaking on behalf of my hundred plus classified employees.

The loss of adequate education funding has been responsible for position cuts, reduced hours, benefits and professional development opportunities for classified employees.  Classified positions include maintenance, secretarial, accounting, Special Ed, E.A.’s, speech path assistants, and library media clerks.  In some districts, food service and transportation are included.  A school district cannot run efficiently without us.  Our students deserve to be served by a classified workforce that is primarily comprised of 40 hour a week employees that are part of their schools professional learning community.

2.        The second issue I want to address is School Libraries.
  • If you want to improve test scores…
  • If you want to better prepare preschoolers for kindergarten…
  • If you want students to have the needed vocabulary for learning…
  • If you want students to achieve the informational literacy skills they need in the 21st century…
We are your program.

Thank you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Recap from the OEIB Funding Forum in Salem

One of our members, Steve Buel, attended the Oregon Education Investment Board's Funding Priorities forum in Salem last week.  As the media failed to report on this event, we at Oregon SOS feel it is important to let people know what was said by the public.

Here is his report.

Snippets from the
Educational Funding Team Recommendations to the Governor Salem Forum

63 people testified. 50 said they were in strong opposition to the recommendations. Usually they suggested that the OEIB should seek increased and stable funding as their top priority. They also questioned the directions the OEIB was taking. No one was strongly supporting the plan.

19 comments about the unaffordability of higher ed.tuition/going into debt, etc
10 comments about need for well rounded curriculum (arts/etc.)
15 comments about the need to address poverty and/or ELL
5 comments about need for more librarians
15 comments about intolerable class sizes

Here are some of the “best moments” from the evening:

Rudy Crew in his talk said we needed to leave alone test scores and “focus on the joy of reading”.

Rudy also said we need to raise the bar on “how we support teachers”.

One of the community college students said his brother is close to finishing up Med school and he has a half million in debt. That is what he said. The kid only has $30 k.

A Salem-Keizer person said her district has cut 125 million in the last 4 years.

One CC student said she wanted to be a teacher and was looking at $40 k in debt.  She said she was “scared” – big debt, no jobs. 

Community colleges have been cut from a $500 million budget from the state to a $395 budget. They are asking for $510 million.

A CC student said it wasn’t right to take from successful programs now and give money to new stuff.

A teacher said they should “put their money where their mouth is”.

A Clackamas School Board member said the school board was responsible for the education of the children in her district meaning not the OEIB. Second she said she couldn’t translate the recommendations to parents and had to read it three times herself to understand it. And third she said, “We need immediate and sustainable funding”. 

A WOU person (may have been a student) asked why their new stuff was “more important than what we already have”.

One of the CC students asked “what good is a college which is the best in the world if student debt is so outrageous?”  and added “our education system is so malnourished that it is on the brink of starvation.”

Dallas schools have cut 5 days for 5 years.

Oregon Save Our Schools member Peter Teller talked about poverty’s influence on education. “creativity has been siphoned off by the loss of electives”.  “Half of our students arrive at school lethargic and withdrawn.”  The “desire to learn is driven right out of the minds of our kids.”

A mother of a student who is about to go to college to be a history teacher  feared for his future.

One person had 36 kids in their kindergarten class in their school.

A  favorite quote of the night, from an ex-penitentiary volunteer, “In penitentiaries the percentage of uneducated people is really high.”


Friday, October 26, 2012

The Truth About Education Reform in Oregon: How Did We Get Here?

The Truth About Governor Kitzhaber's 

A History Lesson We Should Learn From and Protest

by Tom Olson
Oregon Save Our Schools
October 23, 2012

The essential question parents, teachers, and community members should be: "How did we get here?"

Oregon Save Our Schools has been following the OEIB and the NCLB Waiver process since its inception in 2011.  In a little over a year, education reforms have been moving swiftly and without much discussion across our state.  So swiftly, many educator, parents, and even legislators aren't sure what the ramifications will be of such changes.  And these changes are big.

Currently, across Oregon, forums are being held by the OEIB to hear what the public has to say about the OEIB's list of education funding priorities.  We at Oregon SOS are gravely concerned not only about the priorities the state and OEIB wishes to pursue, but that the public's input continues to be ignored so these state reforms can be steamrolled through.  

After attending the last three OEIB community input forums on education funding priorities, it is clear that the public is upset and appalled at the clear disconnect between what the OEIB and state want and what our students, parents, and schools need right now: immediate relief!  However, those in charge, such as Dr. Rudy Crew repeatedly refuse to discuss the funding problem we have here in Oregon.  To do so is irresponsible and negligent in their responsibility to provide our children with a quality education.  

So back to the key question: How did we get here?

Below you will find a narrative that answers that question.  Oregon SOS has attended every public OEIB meeting in order to understand what these changes mean for our state.  Here, we wish to provide a chronicle of the chain of events and circumstances that have gotten us to this point in Oregon education reform.  After reading, the next question to ask is:  

How do we change direction and get Oregon back on track to providing a quality, well-rounded education to all of Oregon's children?

Education Funding Forums Being Held By OEIB

The Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) is currently holding a series of "Education Funding" forums. The OEIB is Governor Kitzhaber's centralized "superboard" charged with overseeing all levels of Oregon’s public education. The Board was authorized by Senate Bill 909.

These latest Forums ask for public input on a new set of recommendations from the Board's "Education Funding Team."  Three Funding Team Forums have been held so far, and the overwhelming public response to the recommendations has been highly negative!


The OEIB members were appointed by Kitzhaber and confirmed by the Oregon Senate in November 2011.  These appointments were delayed for about a month because Kitzhaber’s first list of appointees failed to include a practicing K-12 teacher!  Negotiations in the legislature then resulted in adding the Oregon Education Association’s Vice President (a Beaverton physical education teacher) to the Board membership.

The current OEIB Funding Team recommendations are the latest in a series of proposals by the OEIB after a year’s work.  The most notable previous recommendation was the unfunded and unpopular “Achievement Compact” mandate passed, at Kitzhaber’s urging, by the Oregon legislature (Senate Bill 1581).    OEIB is currently also toying with a series of testing and  “Longitudinal Data System” recommendations emerging---at a projected cost of $50 million over the next two years.

Work on Kitzhaber’s “Educational Transformation” proposals began in 2011--well before the OEIB was appointed last November.  In spring of 2011, Kitzhaber appointed an “Education Investment Team.”   Members were hand-picked by the Governor. 

Then, late in summer 2011, Duncan Wyse, the head of the Oregon Business Council (OBC) engineered a set of so-called “Learnworks” recommendations.  The Oregon Business Council bankrolled this “Learnworks” group of 30 people with grants from several special-interest private corporate foundations. The Learnworks group was handpicked by Wyse, several consultants and the Governor.   A Governor’s spokesperson told me later that “Learnworks” was NOT a Governor-sponsored activity.   Consultants drove the Learnworks recommendations.  These consultants were economists from two private corporations,”EcoNorthwest” and “Public Strategies, Inc".  They ran the meetings and wrote the recommendations.

When Duncan Wyse presented the Learnworks report to the Investment Team in late summer 2011, he described the recommendations as "a great gift to the Oregon Community."    Kitzhaber, in the same meeting, said that these recommendations were a "great handoff" to his newly appointed hand-picked Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB).  Investment Team member Sue Levin, Oregon Director of Stand for Children gushed with enthusiasm, saying “This is truly revolutionary!  I was worried it wouldn’t be!”  Strangely, there were NO recommendations about a) how to deal with poverty’s barriers to learning, b) how to redress the $3 billion Quality Education Model funding gap, or c) how to reduce the major over-testing that plagues our schools.  Apparently the “revolution” that excited Levin didn’t need to address Oregon’s rank of 37th among the states in per pupil spending, nor the $3 billion Quality Education funding gap.

Tim Nesbitt, the Governor's "manager" of the Investment Team, then immediately took these privately-developed "Learnworks" recommendations to a Joint Hearing of the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee and the House Committee on Education.  The presenters implied that the report had been endorsed by the Governor and Investment Team.  But, when pushed hard by a couple of the legislators, Nesbitt quickly backed off, and described the recommendations as "only ideas at this stage."  Legislators at the Joint Hearing raised many penetrating questions; received obtuse answers; and ended with bemused looks.

The Funding Team’s New Recommendations

Oregon Business Council’s Duncan Wyse, buttressed by a group of highly paid private consultants, has now led the work of the Funding Team—even though neither Duncan nor any of the consultants are members of the OEIB.

The central idea of the Funding Team is "outcomes based funding”.   At the Governor's order, that Team met in six secret meetings—each meeting directed by with a group of highly paid consultants.  These meetings, most likely to public meetings Law, were not open to any public observation--let alone comment. (See Salem Statesman-Journal, June 9, 2012 story)

It’s important to point out the Oregon Business Council had been working on this same untested "outcomes based funding " ideological scheme since 2008.  Between 2008 and 2011, OBC received a Gates Foundation and other private grants to flesh out ideas on "proficiency based" education and fleshing out a statewide approach to "outcomes-based funding".

So the “script” for the OEIB Funding Team recommendations was already written long before “Learnworks” or the current Funding Team recommendations. 

Here’s the the REAL meaning of what they propose as “outcomes based funding”:

  • They advance a  "private market" philosophy quoted in the Learnworks documents:  "The state will be the 'buyer' of outcomes; the local school districts will be 'sellers" of outcomes".   So we treat kids like widgets to be counted, and, if the count is good, the state will send some money your way.  If the widgets aren't up to snuff, then, schools, don't get paid as much.

  • Their central “lever” for reform is to overload our schools and teachers with more and more testing data.  Their "theory" for improvement?---create a tsunami flood of "data" to wash over our schools and teachers, and improvement will automatically happen.  And one of the Learnworks members actually told legislators in a Joint Hearing, “Teachers are just crying for more data!”  One skeptical legislator replied, “My, isn’t that sweet!”

  • They propose to wring more "efficiencies" out of our school districts' already dramatically shrunken budgets. One of their more questionable recommendations is to shift funding for special education and ELL programs to “block grants”.   In the economists’ zeal for more “efficiency,” they are concerned that serving our students with special learning needs costs more.  Yes, it does.  Why?  Because their learning needs are greater!   Yet, the EcoNorthwest and OBC “experts” (none of whom are educators) search to cut costs of special education and ELL even more (under the guise of “block grants”.)

  • They are recommending an immediate statewide implementation of "outcomes based funding" for public education.  OBC and its many consultants had a lot of help with this plan from A.L.E.C (The American Legislative Exchange Council, a private right-wing Koch brothers-sponsored group that writes and pushes "model" legislation aimed at cutting costs of education and bashing teachers).  Of course, Wyse and his economists conveniently ignored the fact this ideology has not been tried by any state.  This hasn't deterred the funding idealogues. They propose "full scale ahead" with statewide implementation---no “try outs,” no “bench testing”---nothing but full speed ahead with an untried ideaology.  But the only proposed “investments” are in more state bureaucratic structures---nothing that will directly help students and teachers in our local schools!

Here’s more about the members of the OEIB Education Funding Team (in addition to their “leader,” Duncan Wyse).   There are only two educators on the Funding Team.  David Rives, is President of Oregon's American Federation of Teachers, and Dan Jamison, is the retired superintendent of the Sherwood District.  Jamison retired from that position, and was immediately hired on to work for the Chalkboard project.  Jamison has been one of  Kitzhaber’s “transformation” advocates and has often spoken in favor of these schemes.

Pam Curtis is another Funding Team member.  She's Kitzhaber's lead advocate on the early childhood initiative.  Unlike proposals for reform in K-12, community colleges and higher education, the early childhood education proposals are yet not widely publicized.  

Julia Meyer is the final member.  She's Coordinator of the Coalition of Communities of Color in Portland.  I can only wonder if Ms. Meyer thinks these "Outcomes Based Funding" recommendations will actually help students from communities of color—when the Funding recommendations are silent about how the state can and should make an all-out attack on removing poverty’s barriers to learning.

Also, recognize this.  The same economists from EcoNorthwest and "facilitators" from Public Strategies, who in 2011 "facilitated" and wrote the private Learnworks group recommendations have now been hired to "facilitate" and write the Education Funding Team recommendations.  The state handed these consultants a large $225,000 contract to run the recent secret Education Funding Team meetings.  Competitive bidding procedures for making this award are unclear.   But, the large contract authorizes up to $300 per hour for the consultants--all of this to direct and write up 6 secret Funding Team meetings?   That calculates to $37,500 consultant cost per meeting!!!  We have received a copy of the detailed contract through a public records request.  We have analyzed it in great detail.   The contract includes consultant time estimates for each task in their "scope of work.”  There are three major faults in this contract: 

a) They have overpriced their tasks (example…. the consultants estimated they would need to spend almost a full week of consultant time to prepare for  their first meeting with a single person, the Governor's Education Policy Advisor.) 

b) The consultants promised to interview state agency people they arrogantly call "bidders" for state money.”   And, of course, the consultants will use their own interpretations to write up the results of these interviews

c) Out of the total 2,107 hours the consultants estimate they’ll need  to run and write-up these 6 secret Funding Team meetings, they only propose to devote 48 hours to "interview key stakeholders"!  This equates to 0.02 % of their to effort to engage any "outsiders".


Oregon citizens, we conclude with one question.  Are you satisfied with this effort at “education transformation?   If not, please join Oregon Save Our Schools and demand the Governor, CEO Rudy Crew and the OEIB  make a major “mid course” correction in their flawed proposals.  Ask them to begin really “ investing” directly in our students, teachers and schools!

Contact for source documents substantiating the facts cited in this document.