Education writer Betsy Hammond recently reported that, according to a study done by The Oregonian, in the 2013-2014 fiscal year the budget woes of most school districts will not come primarily from PERS, Oregon’s retirement system for its public employees. The teachers unions (among others) no doubt will celebrate this finding, but they should not.
What is important is not that the financial woes of most school districts are not caused only by PERS, but rather fixing what else is at fault. As Hammond writes, major expenditures include additional hiring, employee health care, and employee pay raises. So the problem is bigger than just PERS: Schools are running up debt and spending taxpayer money, not on greater classroom expenses, but on employees.
Oregon is a state that believes in investing in its children and their future, but that is not what is happening here. Money is being spent on the employees of the education system rather than on the education itself. Oregon’s parents and taxpayers should not put up with this; they should demand real change. They should demand that their tax dollars follow students to the schools of their choice and that school districts rein in their administrative and employee expenditures.
Doug DeFilipps is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute. He is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University.