You Decide: Does the OEA Really Care About Kids?

I’ve been thinking all day about how best to respond to Senate Bill 621, which appeared at the Oregon State Legislature this week. Nowhere in the bill does SB 621 mention the Oregon Education Association. It doesn’t have to. Besides, the teacher’s union prefers to work behind the scenes. In all public venues (on billboards as well as on their website, for instance) they claim to be fighting for Oregon’s kids. In fact, on their website they say “the top priority of the Oregon Education Association is to ensure that all students in Oregon receive a quality education.”

I challenge anyone to read SB 621 and conclude that the OEA is telling the truth.
Many of you do not have first-hand knowledge of how the teacher’s union in your state operates. Why would you? Unless you’re a teacher who has disagreed with union orthodoxy (or heaven forbid openly supported a candidate for office who supports school choice), or you’ve tried to open a charter school, or fought in the legislature for real education reform, you’d never come into contact with your state’s teacher’s union.

Sometimes I wish I were still ignorant of the union’s deviousness and power. But when you work in and around the public education system it’s impossible not to notice the high percentage of students who are not receiving the “quality education” the OEA claims to desire. The sad fact of the matter is that teacher’s unions are responsible for most of what’s wrong in today’s public education system. If their policies didn’t create the problems, they are often immovable objects to eliminating the problems that have developed.

The drop-out rate in this country hovers around 30%. For minorities, it’s much higher. That doesn’t even count the students who graduate without really being able to function at a high school level in reading and math. The dirty little secret of our public education system is that it’s not working for more than one-third of our kids.

Once I understood that fact and connected it to the devastating impact it has on real people””people I’ve met””I could not walk away from the fight for education reform.

Which brings us back to the OEA””the most powerful special interest group in the state of Oregon (and in nearly every other state as well).

Oregon passed its charter school bill in 1999, later than many other states. We were not an early adopter. However, since the charter school bill passed, more than 60 schools of choice have opened and they serve nearly 8,000 Oregon students. They account for less than 2% of Oregon’s public school students, but the OEA opposes them nonetheless.

SB 621 will require every charter school teacher to join the union and be licensed by the state bureaucracy. The bill will also empower the district monopolies to limit the number of students who can leave their schools and attend a charter school. Finally, the bill would close down the most successful charter school in the state, Oregon Connections Academy, where 1,500 students current attend school online.

The bill is sponsored by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee and the Chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Just this month, the State of Utah took a giant leap forward in education reform by making every school in the state a school of choice (more below). Oregon, on the other hand, is preparing to return to the 20th Century by killing its charter school movement in its infancy.

Keep your eye on this bill as the OEA tries to close its powerful hand on charter schools and crush the parents and children who attend them.

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Posted by at 06:35 | Posted in Measure 37 | 31 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    It should be obvious to anyone that the OEA DOES NOT care anything about the students. Their entire focus is on having the teachers do less and less while getting paid more and more. This fact can not be in dispute. Has anyone ever heard of them proposing anything that does not fit that description? I think not.
    I taught school for 19 years, 16 of those in Oregon, and 6 of those 16 as an administrator, so I have been in the trenches on both sides and I can tell you all, if you care to listen, that OEA is the single most dangerous organization in Oregon and that everything they do and everything they stand for goes against what is best for students. Why else would they back legislation that would undermine the successful charter schools that are working well for so many Oregon students and families? Why else would they be demanding more and more for the teachers while Oregon’s drop out rate continues to be one of the highest in the nation?

    The legislature in Oregon has sold out to the union – make no mistake about that – Oregon will never see a bill like the one in Utah that made every school in the state a school of choice. NEVER.
    In my 16 years of education in Oregon I never once witnessed the union doing anything that would actually help a student.

    Not once.

    Ever.

    • Bailie

      Jerry,
      That is interesting. Unfortunately, the negotiating advantage belongs to the unions. How many times have you heard that a school board or administration threaten to shut down a school district. Individual volunteer school boards are no match for the statewide effort of OEA and OSEA. It shows in what has evolved in the last 20 years.Oregon K-12 employees are the 8th highest compensated (Chalkboard Project) in the U.S. Oregon is in the lower half of states when ranked for affluence (per capita income). In Oregon, we are left with very large class sizes, short school years and average academic performance, in exchange for among the most costly K-12 employees in the U.S.
      School board elections are greatly influenced by union activities. That is no secret.

      • eagle eye

        Nobody cares very much about these statistics. The school boards certainly know about this. Maybe they’re happy with the deals they’re making? Perhaps they think Oregon teachers are worth a premium. Evidently, nobody is very concerned about it.

        • Anonymous

          Very few school board members know about the data. These are the primary reasons why Oregon has struggled with funding during the last 20 years. Oregon education has handled allocation of revenue very poorly. If academic results matched the relatively very high compensation, it might be a worthwhile trade-off. Unfortunately, there is no correlation. Oregon could hire an additional 5,000 – 8,000 teachers if individual K-12 compensation matched the median state.

          • Captain_Anon

            Where do you get “Very High Compensation” from? I wouldn’t call starting at 32,000 or so very high. hell, starting at 36,000 isn’t very high. it’s below the average median income. at least in the portland metro area.

          • Bailie

            Captain,
            Oregon K-12 employees are the 8th highest compensated in the U.S. That is where the “relatively high individual K-12 compensation” comes from. It is costing the possibility to hire thousands of additional teachers in Oregon. Oregon cannot afford to be among the highest compensating of states, while being in the lower half of states in affluence. That simple. Over the last 20 years, Oregon K-12 education has evolved into a state where student sacrifices have been used to pay for the relatively very high compensation. The compensation of each Oregon school district is decided by the strength of the union, and not the needs of the students.

          • eagle eye

            Anonymous, what is the evidence that “very few” school board members know the facts about the costs of their own school districts? That is hard to believe on the face of it, unless they’re completely incompetent (and the voters who elect them).

            Anyhow, if they’re so ignorant, it must mean that they don’t care. Which just reinforces what I claim: nobody in Oregon cares much about the issue of high teacher “compensation”.

  • Pam

    Odd isn’t it? School Board members in each school district make the decision to reject or permit Charter Schools. Rarely does a OEA member serve on a School Board. More typically, OEA members and School Board members sit across the table during negotiations and grievance hearings.

  • J

    It’s amazing how over the last 15 years I have gone from loving this state to bordering on hating it. It’s like a marriage gone bad. It seems that everything is broken here and I don’t see evidence that anything is going to get fixed. I mean, my god, we have to plead with our officials do do anything that makes sense for taxpayers.

    When my daughter gets to school age, we have three choices; private school, a bad education or leave the state. I think we will opt for the latter.

  • Jerry

    Capt. – Get real. Starting pay is fine. Why, otherwise, would anyone do it if it was not? The marketplace is a great determiner. It works everytime it is tried.
    Your refusal to accept the facts colors your perception of everything. Look at the posts here – is anyone saying anything positive about the teacher’s union?
    I think not.
    Remember, the teachers only work for 180 actual days, if that, so the pay is really not bad at all for a half year of work.

  • Rebecca

    Capt anon is a complete jack ass on issue after issue. His having displayed such a high level of distortion and misunderstanding I can only conclude that it is intentioinal.

    Starting pay right out of college at 23 at $36K is what? Too low?

    Perhaps it should be $46. That would be good for the students too?

    Why not then?
    And when it ramps up the remaining tiers of pay and the overall compensation becomes the highest in the land the OEA can declare education success and Cap anon, in his jack ass way can tell everyone what a good thing it is.

    • Captain_Anon

      Jerry

      Read what i wrote. I was responding to the person who said teacher pay is “very high compensation” which it is not. I also asked if people thought starting out at $32,000 is considered ‘very high.” I can’t imagine people would think so. is it ok pay? yeah, it’s ok. it makes paying off college debt, renting and living tight, but it can be done. don’t read into what i didn’t say

      Rebecca,

      saying what i write as distortionsand intentional misunderstanding is pretty funny considering the complete manufacturing of facts *without any sources, links, or supporting facts* that are completely that you have posted in the last few threads. I provide documentation. do you? Look back at your claim that the teachers in the Oregon Trail district were demanding 55 days of sick leave, up from 44. So i showed you the contract and showed that they only get 10 days. I know you don’t like your ‘facts’ being exposed for what they are, but i’m not going to apologize for showing how untrue they are. Furthermore, i think most districts have starting pay near 32K. Is that enough? i don’t know, that bears discussion. But i would say i don’t think it’s too much to ask of the public to pay individuals who dedicate thier lives to helping our children learn and grow. Teachers max out at what? $60K a year after 20 years of teaching? I don’t think that’s too much to give – especially considering the impact they have on kids, thier dedication, and yes, how much time and energy they put into thier profession. remember, most parents out there suck and can’t raise thier kids. and sadly, that then falls on the teachers to raise them.

    • Captain_Anon

      Rebecca,

      for discussion purposes, the Oregon Trail district, which you talked about before, starts teachers out at $29,208. After 16 years of teaching, and getting a masters (at your own expense), you max out at $56,605. That’s not a ton. I certainly don’t believe that to be “relatively very high compensation.”

      • Chris McMullen

        $56,605 plus a super-generous pension, a 9-month work year and platinum benefits. Sounds like a damn good living to me.

        If instructing in Oregon was so terrible, we’d have a teacher shortage, not a glut.

        • Captain_Anon

          the majority of teachers wash out after 5 years, which would put them at $34,611 on that particular schools step. there may be a glut of teachers wanting to get in, but a large portion never stay.

          ALso, what is a ‘super-generous pension?’ what are ‘platinum benefits?’ Please be specific on this. more importantly, is it wrong that teachers get decent benefits when they retire? i for one don’t think its bad. why shouldn’t our public workers get a decent retirement? they work for us and they work hard. they watch over our kids, which are our most previcious commodity. they have to deal with the public, which quite frankly is a pain in the ass – you know, parents being pissed that their kids are disciplined because they parents refuse to do it and the kids act like animals in school, parents being pissed thier kids got a C instead of an A and blaming the teacher, etc. It’s not a bad thing we give them a good retirement. we owe them that.

        • eagle eye

          Do we have a glut of teachers in Oregon? Do you have some evidence?

          The Sunday Oregonian toady had a story about the problem of beginning Oregon teachers dropping out of the profession the first few years. If it’s such a great job, why do so many quit so soon?

          • Chris McMullen

            Exactly, the Oregonian -is- a toady for the Democrat politicos. No wonder they had a cry-me-a-river piece about how schools don’t have enough money.

          • eagle eye

            OK, go ahead, ignore the evidence, pretend the problem doesn’t exist. It’s no wonder most people don’t take the right-wing extremists seriously when it comes to education.

          • Chris McMullen

            Talk about ignoring the evidence, Iggie. The US spends more money than practically any other industrialized nation and gets some of the worst results. Yet, people like you want to dump more money into an inefficient system run by the biggest union in the world. What $12,000 a year per student isn’t enough? Did you ever stop to think that young teachers leave because tenured, underperforming teachers are bleeding the system dry?

            Oregonians have not supported real reform because the OEA does a spectacular job of scaring folks with propaganda. That, and most Portlanders are ignorant to the realities of a free-market society.

      • Captain_Anon

        LIke Eagle Eye noted, the Oregonian came out with a good piece on teachers sunday. 25% of teachers in many of the districts of Oregon have less than 3 years experience. more than 1/3 drop out of the profession by year 5. Jobs that are overpaid, underworked and easy pickens don’t have sad retention rates like that. Our districts are dying for teachers with experience.

        PERS is generious, so what. They work hard, they work for the public, they deal with the publics bratty and undisciplined kids, they have to put up with atrocious parents, and deal with a public contempt for them. if someone actually stays in teaching in Rebeccas district, the Oregon Trail district, and makes $57,950 (They updated thier contract to the current year. the previous one listed was for last year: http://www.oregontrailschools.com/uploads/Tentative%20Agr%201-4-07.pdf) and gets a masters degree plus 45 credits (which the majority of people don’t get), they would receive $38,800 if they got 2/3rd thier salary. if they only got 50% as rebecca says would be adequate, they would get $28,900. that’s tough to live on, especially with medical bills, perscriptions, and all the normal costs of living for those aged 65 and over. That’s not so good. and i reallly think that does our public workers a disservice.

        Rebecca, please show where i have been a liar. show me where i have been unethical. is it unethical to post facts? links to actualy contracts with numbers to support my points? I firmly believe that wanting teachers to live on 50% of thier salary as retirement would push them close to poverty. In 2006, the US Poverty line for a family of 2 is $13,200. so, a teacher would make roughly 16,000 more than *POVERTY*. Based on HUD median family income levels (http://www.hud.gov/local/shared/working/r10/emas/medianinc.cfm?state=wa#oregon), the median family income for oregon is $58,900 for the state, $54,700 for Eugene, $52,900 for Medford, and $66,900 for Portland. that means a teacher when retired at the highest possible rung of the payscale making 1/2 of his salary as per Rebecca would be making 24,000 less than the median income of the lowest metropolitan area. Oregon Trail district is in the portland metro area, so they would be making $38,000 *LESS* than the median income in portland upon retirement. makes it pretty tough to make ends meet at 50% of your salary.

        The top rung of the top teaching position in the Oregon Trail District ($57,950) makes $8950 less than the median income. OUCH! and if they retired on 2/3rds thier top POSSIBLE income, they would only get $38,800 a year. which is $28,100 below the median income. and it would be fixed income. decreasing in value with inflation.

        I think that hardly constitutes ‘good retirement.’

        You may disagree with my opinions, you may disagree with my support of teachers. but leave the name calling back in high school. Engage in reasonable and respectful debate.

        • eagle eye

          Well put about the teacher dropout rate, Cap.

          Whatever else teaching is like, if it was such an easy job, people wouldn’t be dropping like flies. And Oregon has a lower dropout rate than average! (Maybe that’s because the pay IS relatively high in Oregon?)

        • Chris McMullen

          Cappy, the median YEARLY FAMILY OF FOUR income for Oregon is $61,570.00.

          http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/4person.html

          If one person is pulling down $57,950 they’re doing just fine (not including all the other bennies) — that’s real good for a 180-day work year (as opposed to 260-day work year for the rest of us). No sane person should shed a tear for a non-manual labor occupation that earns that much money.

          Moreover, you and Iggie refuse to address the bad-teacher:tenure situation. Why should bad teachers continue to be employed AND continue to get raises? Boy, those unions really care about the kids, huh?

          The more you defend the government class, the weaker your arguments get.

          • captain_anon

            Chris,

            yes, so, a nuclear family makes an annual median income of $61,500 by your numbers, and while it does not describe the size of family, $58,900 in the stats i found. very close numbers. what’s the problem here? after working 16 years, getting a masters degree, and getting 45 additional college credits gets a teacher $57,950 – still below the median income. so if they have kids, it makes it harder to support them. you’re helping me make my point, they make below the median income. they may have 180 days in front of kids and about 15-20 or so not in front of kids. plus, they work around between 9 and 10 hours a day compared to most who work 7.5 or 8. long ago i posted numbers on the close comparison of hours worked. i guess i see it as a worthy pay off.

            have you heard me defending the practice of crappy teachers being insanely protected by the union? no. why should i address that issue? it never came up. so why should i bring it up? there are a million topics we could bring up and the one we were talking about was how some think teachers are underworked and overpaid.

          • Chris McMullen

            Follow closely Cappy. You’re obviously not getting it:

            The link shows the average family of four’s median income is around $60,000. Most families have two or more working individuals. If a teacher is making $57K a year and their spouse is making $30k a year, then they are well above the average Oregon family income.

            Moreover, there are all kinds of individuals who have masters degrees and are not making $57K a year with all the bennies teachers get. There’s also all kinds of people (like me) working 10+ hours a day, 12 months out of the year.

            I guess you’ve never owned your own business. Go tell them they work 7.5 to 8 hours a day.

            Get over yourself, Cappy. Jerry made a good point; I think you do need to wake up and join the real world.

          • Captain_Anon

            Chris,

            we don’t predicate people’s salaries and retirements based upon what their spouses, if any, earn. there are plenty of families out there that are still single income earners. there are plenty of teachers out there who don’t have a double income home. so what! again, we don’t determine what someones retirement should be based upon the fact that there is one or two earners in the family. you yourself said that there are families out there that are not double earners.

            you’re right, there are all kinds of different work schedules out there and all kinds of salary ranges. so what? what’s the point of that? if you feel teachers have it SOOOO good, why aren’t you standing in line with your masters to grab one of those “lucrative” jobs?

            the whole point here is not to say that teachers don’t receive good benefits. the point is that they SHOULD receive good benefits. they SHOULD receive good pay. but they don’t. they receive ‘ok’ pay. if it were better, i’m sure there would be better retention of them – as stated before, 25% of teachers out there today have less than 3 years experience. 1 in 3 drop out after 5 years in the profession. and if someone owns a business and works 7 or 10 hours a day, so what? good for them. rock on! but all that has nothing to do with teachers. If you don’t like working 10 hours a day, get a different job. but obviously the benefits and/or pay of your job make it worth while for you to stay in it. Teachers on the other hand, aren’t being retained because the market isn’t meeting the need and demand. but still, that doesn’t matter. Teachers deserve our respect and support. and they should be paid well, and given a good retirement as thanks for teaching our kids, helping the education of our country, being role models, for encouraging our kids, and for many, being better parents to the kids then the parents themselves.

          • Bailie

            Captain,
            The problem for Oregon K-12 is that the relatively very high compensation (8th highest in the U.S.) of K-12 employees has become a limiting factor for Oregon education. Oregon annually compensates more than $500 million above the median state for individual compensation. That might work if Oregon were an affluent state. We are not affluent (currently ranked 29th, up from 36th in 2004). The result is large class sizes, short school years and mediocre graduation rates (despite the easiest state graduation standards of all states). These shortcomings are all at the expense of the relatively very high compensation.

          • chris McMullen

            The point is, Cappy; good teachers SHOULD get compensated well, but bad teachers are getting good pay as well, thanks to teachers unions. Moreover, as Matt posted originally, our current school system is not working as well as it should. Seeing that the NEA is the largest union in the world, they need to take major blame for why our schools are failing.

            It’s apologists like you Cappy, who help keep the union’s stranglehold on our school system.

            I wouldn’t care if the best teachers got $80k a year, just as long as bad ones are quickly culled out of the system, but that wouldn’t make the unions too happy now would it?

  • Jerry

    The generous pension is PERS, which pays teachers much more in retirement than almost any other private sector retirement plan. Also, most teachers have health benefits totaling more than $800 per month, completely paid in full by the taxpayers. Additionally, some school districts pay the PERS contribution for the teachers.

    You don’t owe anyone anything – people do what they do by choosing to do it. If you want to really talk about who we owe, how about the state police who put their lives on the line for us each and every day. Talk about underpaid and underappreciated. I would vote them a pay increase in a heartbeat.

    Anyway, Capt., you need to wake up a bit and join the real world. Nothing is as bad as you claim or no one would be teaching. And remember, a lot of people go into to teaching for three reasons, June, July and August.

    • Captain_Anon

      I would also say we owe state police a good retirement. that doesn’t take away the fact we owe our teachers good retirements as well.

  • Rebecca

    Capt anon the jack ass said

    “It’s not a bad thing we give them a good retirement. we owe them that”

    A good retirement could be 2/3 of what they get now. Adequate 1/2.

    But you are a fool and a liar with no understanding of the retirement they do get or the age in which they can retire.

    You are just like every previous defender of our lavish public employee compensation packages.

    Your unethical, dishonest pretense that people want them to have no retirement and live in poverty.
    The polar opposite of the excessive pacjages they enjoy.

  • eagle eye

    Chris McMullen — Talk about ignoring evidence! You don’t even seem to be able to read.

    Nowhere did I say “Yet, people like you want to dump more money into an inefficient system”.

    I challenged the notion that there’s a glut of teachers in Oregon, that it’s an easy job. The other ridiculous claims that I keep reading at this web site.

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