Friday, October 19, 2012

Education Funding Priorities Start With Us

Thursday night.   A long line of people arriving to sign in to testify to the OEIB about funding priorities for our state.  Over 45 people spoke out at a packed meeting of roughly 200 people at the now defunct Marshall High School.  Ah, the irony.   And that irony wasn't missed by the public.   

Only one OEIB member was in attendance, Hanna Vaandering of the Oregon Education Association--the only teacher out of 12 on the board.  Dr. Rudy Crew sent a video clip of himself to give the audience an intro to the purpose of the Funding Priorities list.  Two members of his staff were there as well taking feedback from the audience.

For two minutes at a time for nearly two hours, speech after speech was made by the public advocating with much passion for something different than the ridiculous list put out by the Education Funding Team, a team who met in secret to come up with the list of priorities.  In secret. 

Based on the testimony, it was clear that the public (made up of many teachers, parents, and students) could have saved them a whole lot of time, money and energy in offering suggestions for the EFT as it was clear there was a complete disconnect.  The public called for:  smaller class sizes, well-rounded programs to include  librarians and counselors, and end to expensive high-stakes testing, more Special Education services, early childhood support,  making college affordable, trusting teachers, investing in creating modern schools, keeping corporate interests out of our public schools, giving teachers more time to plan and collaborate, and of course, increasing funding for education.  One speaker told them to go back to the drawing board as the list was clearly not created by parents and teachers.  Another teacher invited them into her school classrooms to see what teachers, students, and the teaching conditions are really like-- hoping that maybe that would help in designing education more realistic funding priorities.  Other teachers and parents noted their children were in classes with excessive class sizes: 40-56-60!   Others often reiterated that we are in crisis and that the state must address this now.

In Eugene earlier in the week and in Hermiston, the same message rang through:  listen to your public, and work on funding schools, not reinventing them.   We do not need to fund any more bureaucracy.  Money needs to get to our schools and classrooms, not to items like longitudinal data systems which will cost up to 50 million dollars.

The question now is: will the OEIB really listen?

Below is the passionate speech by one of Oregon Save Our School founders, Susan Barrett.  Her speech earned a standing ovation.

Susan Barrett's testimony to the Oregon Education Investment Board Public Input Meeting 10/18, 2012 at Marshall High School in Portland.

"My name is Susan Barrett. I have a 2nd & 5th grader in Portland Public Schools. I am also one of the founders of Oregon Save Our Schools, a truly grassroots group that came together because we were concerned that corporate interests were having more of a say in public education than we do. My two kids have experienced cuts throughout their entire short school careers. What does that say about how we value them and their education? 

Teachers have been laid off, no more music, class sizes at 36, and I see nothing in these plans to address any of that. But, at least they have a school. What about the kids whose neighborhood school has been closed down? We have seen several close in Portland. I see nothing in these plans to address that either. 

What I see is a plan created by a few people in private, far removed from the very people who should have the most significant input - the students, teachers, and parents. And, let's face it...we're not that hard to find. We're a captive audience in our schools! If they really wanted to get our input, it is not that hard to get! 

How is it that my school principal can send out a survey to families and teachers about what we should cut, but we don't get a survey about what our funding priorities are? Instead you roll out a show in what - 8 places across the state? And, the parents, teachers and students don't even know about these meetings? Why have we not received notices in our schools and districts about these meetings? 

Seems to me you don't really want our input! 

And then you have the AUDACITY to come in here with a list of predetermined education funding priorities that the public never had a say in, and you put in bold at the top that these are our priorities?! Then you want us to pit one against the other?! I don't have any college students, so what do I do...rank that a 10 and let my young kids duke it out with college kids? English Language Learner services - those are important, but do I pit that against early learning or special education?

And, why is it that the OEIB gets 10 priorities on the front, and they only give me room for 5 of my own on the back? This has not been a democratic process. I urge you all not to participate in this form. Cross it out, write your own priorities. These are our schools and the priorities should start with us."


  1. I hope everyone will join SOS and fight this "Funding" agenda that was cooked up in secret. Did any of the state officials examine the "open meetings" law?
    Worse, the secret meetings were run by a group of high priced consultants (receiving up to $300 per hour!!!!) They were the ones who engineered this "Funding" plan. As virtually everyone who testified made clear, when it comes to OUR schools, it's "NON FUNDING" plan. The only investments they call for are state-run ones.

    Help us make them go back to the drawing board, and, in the bright sunlight of open meetings start all over again!

    Tom Olson
    Co-Founder Oregon Save Our Schools

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