Oregon’s Worsening Educational System

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Oregon’s Worsening Educational System

A recent headline in the Oregonian screamed “Nearly 40 Percent of Oregon High School grads don’t go to college.   The article by Betsy Hammond was replete with statistics.  It declared that Oregon was trailing the national average for matriculation from high school to college and that the figures for Oregon remained stubbornly low indicating a continuing problem.  These results parallel the continuing decline of testing scores in Oregon when compared to other states and more so when compared to other countries.

Ms. Hammond notes the probable results of this continuing decline:

“In all, 14,000 students in the class of 2011 didn’t try college and are likely stuck working jobs such as sales clerk, security guard, waiter or parking lot attendant, according to Brenda Turner, occupational economist with the Oregon Employment Department. Few such jobs pay more than $9.50 an hour, she said.”

What is lacking in Ms. Hammond’s articles is any exploration of the cause of the continuing decline of Oregon’s schools as demonstrated by declining test scores, abnormally high drop out rates and “near-the-bottom” matriculation rates from high school to college.  But there are constants in the past twenty years that point to one of the major problem in Oregon’s declining school system.

No, it’s not money.  Oregon has routinely increased school funding over the past twenty years and while it is no longer near the top of spending per student it continues above the norm.  Granted a smaller and smaller percentage of that money reaches the classroom in the form of additional teachers but that is due to the increasing cost of benefits (Oregon’s gold-platted PERS and its richly generous healthcare plans).  So much so, that several legislative sessions ago, the legislature found an additional $350 Million – over and above its regular increase in education spending -–for the alleged purpose of mitigating the growing teacher /student ratio in the classrooms only to see virtually all of it diverted to pay for the increase cost of benefits to existing teachers.  Virtually every study conducted on a national basis shows there is little or no correlation between the amount of money spent per student and the educational results.  Some of the highest spending states are stuck near the bottom on performance and some of the highest performing states are those among the national average.

There is a lack of accountability in the expenditure of educational funds.  Emblematic of this lack of accountability is the nearly fifteen years of waste in pursuit of the Oregon-centric CIM/CAM educational testing program.  [CIM/CAM refers to the Certificates of Initial Mastery and Certificates of Advanced Mastery]  A former state senator estimated that those programs ate up nearly $500 million per year with zero results.  So contentious and contrived were the tests that the students couldn’t pass them, the colleges refuse to accept them and the business community its back on them. And yet for nearly fifteen yearsthose programs were used by the teachers unions and the Democrats to demand increased educational spending on the theory that new programs required additional funding.

Oregon’s educational system is dominated by the teachers unions.  Their unlimited financial resources available to Democrat candidates ensure that the status quo remains in the educational system.  Instead of merit pay, Oregon has teachers’ tenure and a disciplinary system that makes it difficult to terminate a teacher for anything short of sexual abuse.  Every major change that has been proposed to improve Oregon’s educational system has been opposed by and blocked by the public employee unions.  Those same unions have a singular solution that has remained unchanged in over two decades – more money.  But more money hasn’t worked as evidenced by the continuing decline of Oregon’s educational outcomes. More money has not resulted in more teachers, or better methods, or greater accountability.  What more money has resulted in is larger salaries, greater benefits and more paid non-working days for teachers.

And yet each year Oregon’s business community meets under the aegis of the Oregon Business Council (OBC) and supports increased educational spending.  And while the OBC has set forth numerous proposals for educational accountability it has never conditioned support of increased spending on adoption of those proposals.  It has occurred so routinely that no one pays the slightest attention any longer.

One might ask, how paying more to incompetent teachers in an incompetent system could possibly result in improved performance?  But Oregon’s public employee unions remain in full control of Oregon’s political system and the result will be an increasingly more expensive educational system with an increasingly poorer educational result.  And the same Democrats who swoon over the plight of the ch-i-i-ll-d-r-r-e-e-n-n (yes, I said it with the mandatory moan) will continue to resist change in the educational system so as to protect their campaign benefactors – the public employees unions.

Until the Oregonian and the state’s other media outlets start identifying the causes of such crises as the failing educational system, the increasing financial burden of PERS and the disparate political campaign advantages enjoyed by the public employee unions, Oregon’s woes will continue unchecked.  Good luck but don’t count on it.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Education, PERS, Public Employee Unions | 25 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    I am thinking of researching the happenings in the Corbett School district which reportedly has had some success with charter schools in recent years.
    With respect to Hammond’s article: I am not so sure so many graduating high school should go directly on to college anyways. Nobody knows for sure what the right percentages should be, as an efficient society is constantly weighing its needs, wants, resources, etc. In an inefficient top down, command and control societies such as the one Kitzhaber seems to want to continually experiment on Oregon with; exact percentages are arbitrarily pulled out of thin air by the so-called experts in the room, driving countless, costly bureaucratic planning exercises. And now we hear, Kitzhaber’s main education planning czar (Rudy Crew) is already looking for a different job, not on the job but more than a couple of years and long before the actual results of Kitzhaber’s educational planning act materialize. It took 15 years or so for Kitzhaber’s CIM/CAM project to be officially pronounced as a failure, and by this time, the electorate had forgot about the failed planning model mania of Kitzhaber.

    I hope maybe the advance of on-line education can make the public education system become mostly outdated, maybe like e-mail and the internet have been to the U.S postal service. Then maybe we can spring free of the Teachers union dominance over state and local governance.

    • DavidAppell

      Bob Clark wrote:
      I am not so sure so many graduating high school should go directly on to college anyways.

      Sure, because we all know there is absolutely no way that jobs requiring particular skills might be shipped out of the country to wherever labor is cheapest.

      People like Bob Clark — at least 30 years behind the times, if not 40 — scare me.

  • wil

    Why does a non college student seem destined for low wage jobs? I have one friend who graduated in 1992 who went into a plumber apprenticeship and now earns much more than I do (with a Masters) as owner of a plumbing company. I have another friend who went into the air force and worked in computers, served for 8 years and now makes six figures with an associates degree. The whole premise that we need 80% of our graduates to go to college and load up on debt is ridiculous.

    • DavidAppell

      If you got an advanced degree just to make more money, you made a serious mistake.

  • villageidiot

    I agree with Wil. Just who is to decide how many high school grads need to go to college. Kitzblather has determined that number to be 60% with the rest with vocational or associate college degree. Who says that is appropriate. Only the market place and that also determines what your degree will be in and right now that isn’t a liberal arts degree. Hard science, doctor, engineer, vocational etc. some thing usefull whether it is college, apprentiship, or votech.

    • DavidAppell

      Do you see much growth in manufacturng jobs in the US, given the dynamics of world markets.

      No — neither does Kitzhaber. Hence the need for Americans to be smarter than the rest.

      Is that so much to ask?

  • ardbeg

    Could the high cost of tuition have anything to do with so many students not opting for college. An colleague of mine son decided on Williamette university @ 50k a year. How many parents can send their kid college now days.

    • guest

      Harry S. Truman was not a college graduate and look what was begotten.

      If only more bucks stopped there and ‘knot’ the phallus-sleaze, of Rhodes haller William Jefferson Clinto(o)n – nor the phony B.S. of BHO, cracker’d jack pull -whizzer apprise.

      • ardbeg

        Truman was born in the 1800’s! I was able to put myself through college by working summers and during the school year in the 70/80’s. Times have changed. You point is pointless (as usual).

        • guest

          Rx: Take two Bob Clark pills and call ‘wil’ in the morning. Rest assured villiageidiot will second the emulsion.

      • 3H

        A college education would help you greatly. If you already have one, I’d sue for malpractice.

        • guest

          Where there’s a wil common sense can light the way.
          As for 3H, bloke seems generously medicated by his PCD, Doobie Houser, MJ.

      • DavidAppell

        Re: Harry S. Truman — that was 60 years ago. The world has changed significantly since then. Please try to keep up, OK?

  • Ron Glynn

    I ain’t sure why folks keep carping about the schol systim beinng bad. I am a hi schol gradeate and I am doing fine. It preparred me for my carear at MCdonalds. Someday, I hop to be asst. managger

    • guest

      Hillsboro Hops welcome your rendition in position to latte onto the fast bawls of ardbeg and 3H.

    • DavidAppell

      Forget your education — I’m more worried about your morals and attitude. Clearly, they are falling short.

      • Ron Glynn

        Chill out and get a life! You need one!

        • DavidAppell

          Chill out and get an education, and maybe you’ll have something intelligent to say here.

          • guest

            Mr DA, Your ‘charges’ over @ BlueOregon may find you Absolute’ly adorable, hic, – meanwhile, the voir dire panel @ OC see your breathalyzer results as positive for dismissal from a jury that adheres to common sense.

  • DavidAppell

    Larry Huss wrote:
    Oregon has routinely increased school funding over the past twenty years and while it is no longer near the top of spending per student it continues above the norm.

    Is it too much to ask for a link to support your claims?

    Or is Larry such a great essayist that he need not provide evidence for his claims? (No, I don’t think so.)

  • Russ

    I am a teacher and resent being called incompetent. I worked hard to get where I am and have taken many, many classes to help me become a true professional like a doctor or a lawyer. It can not be my fault if a kid doesn’t go to college. Maybe they can’t afford it. Maybe they are too lazy. Who knows, but to blame me is wrong. I work hard every day to reach these students. I am in contact with them often for 5 or more hours every day school is in session (about 172 total days in the year), which is a lot of work if you ask me.

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