The following letter, written by Jenn Schuberth of CORE: Calling Oregon to Reinvest in Education, was recently sent to the Oregonian and all Oregon legislators. It was written in response to the latest Oregonian piece that felt the need to advocate for the ramming through of Governor Kitzhaber's education reform legislation, SB 1581 and the Achievement Compacts.
"If You Question the Governor’s Education Plans, You Hate Children and Want Oregon Businesses to Fail"
In your Feb. 25th editorial, "Yes, take care of business,” you explained that legislators “need to understand whom they are most likely to hurt [by not passing the governor’s health and education bills]. It's not Democrats. It's not Gov. John Kitzhaber. It's not the labor unions. It's Oregon business." Governor Kitzhaber had a slightly more nuanced take on Friday, saying “most importantly, [the legislators] should not turn their back on our children.”
At his Thursday press conference, Governor Kitzhaber praised business organizations for working “to find a way….to improve our system of public education…These are issues of economic prosperity. And they are key elements of the Oregon Business Plan.”
I’m a parent of two young children and a professor at a public university who used to work in finance. I’ve urged legislators to vote against the governor’s education bills for economic and moral reasons.
I am also against these education bills from a moral point of view. Your editorial urges passage of these bills because Oregon needs "better-educated, better-prepared, more-productive workers." Most people don’t think of themselves as “workers,” but as human beings and citizens who work to make a living. I applaud the Oregonian’s honesty in explicitly stating what these education bills are designed to create: workers. The OEIB’s reform agenda will lead to more standardized testing and create worker drones, not educated citizens. As University of Oregon education professor, Yong Zhao, explains, “unless high-stakes standardized testing…is abandoned, America education will continue to be ruined by the so-called reformers. In fact, Arne Duncan’s proposal to ‘reward excellence’ …will only increase the stakes in testing” (Ditch Testing (Part 5): Testing Has Not Improved Education Despite all the Costs). The governor’s plan is meant to align with Arne Duncan’s reform agenda and it will lead to more testing. Testing for competencies is not the same as educating citizens.
Jennifer Schuberth is cofounder of CORE: Calling Oregon to Reinvest in Education and an assistant professor of religion at Portland State University.