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.”