Will voters continue to support our schools?

Dave Berg_thb

by Dave Berg

A couple of years ago I was at my gym discussing local issues with a fellow citizen. When I told them that I supported our schools, had voted for the optional levy and all the bonds of the past twenty years, they simply replied “thank you”.

I was stunned to hear that response. Why? It was the first time in 20 years any parent actually thanked me for supporting the schools, despite not having a child in the system. It turns out this resident was a parent that understood the economics of schools and truly appreciated the contribution the overwhelming majority of property owners make to our school system. This experience made me realize how few residents really understand about the level of support for schools in my community. 

It also encouraged me to go check my facts. Seventy percent of property owners in my community don’t have school age children. Yes, that’s astoundingly correct. The school system is primarily supported by residents with no children. Think about that for a moment. It’s an overwhelmingly gracious level of support, from those that are not directly receiving a benefit, by having school age children in the system. Many of them have never had children in our schools, but still support them through their income taxes and an optional property tax levy. That’s a remarkable display of commitment.

Why all of the support? Lake Oswego values education because it is highly educated. In broad terms two thirds of our residents are college educated with one third having graduate degrees. That’s quite unique in Oregon and it represents a core element of our “community character”. Yet, will this community continue to support the school system as it matures? That’s a question that comes up frequently when talking to local voters. Many of them are under financial pressure and have seen significant declines in their property values without any real property tax relief.

We will find out soon if the support remains. Lake Oswego residents are being asked to approve a “levy” on their property, often called the “local option”, in November. It represents a renewal of a significant additional tax on voters who own property and is about 10-13% of the school system budget. Voter turnout is expected to be very low (28-32%) in an off year election.

Five years ago the option passed by 14% but still 43% of residents voted against it. That’s not an insignificant amount of residents voting against an additional tax. That vote was prior to the downturn in our economy, tax/fee increases at the state level, and further erosion of property values. So it’s anybody’s guess if the 70% will support the 30% again. The results of this local election may give us all insight into the broader level of support for schools throughout Oregon. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on this vote as a leading indicator for public support.

It will be interesting to see if our little town votes toward preserving our “community character”, given all the other efforts going on in Salem. Still, the next time you meet someone in the 70%, remember, a simple thank you will do!

Dave Berg is a 22-year resident of Lake Oswego a board member of COLA LO, Chair of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee, and Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee of the Clackamas County Republican Party

  • Jim

    If the school systems would get rid of the Transportation business , then they could focus on Education.

  • Bob Clark

    I wouldn’t vote yes on a levy helping my district, Portland Public Schools. PPS administration blows the monies on ever greater administrative positions and equity contracting. Any extra monies after this ends up paying existing teacher gold plated retirement and health packages (the average teacher compensation for PPS is approaching $100k per year for less than full time work per PPS’ own budget documents; there are many professionals with just as demanding work who make 10 to 20% less than $100k in total compensation). Meantime, PPS tries to kill off successful schools like Benson High School, denying an opportunity to take advantage of students wanting to transfer and who are willing to pay extra for the school. Equity truly means equally poor results.
    PPS is broken badly, and giving it more levy money only causes it to continue on its current dismal path. It is buried in the Equity and “green earth religion” mantras rather than just doing the basics of teaching the Rs.
    Maybe smaller, more homogenous districts can get past the Detroit like mentality having taken over PPS.

  • voterid

    By the time the high school bands start promoting the ACA there may be even fewer people supporting the schools…

  • Ballistic45

    The real question has to be, how much bang for the buck are taxpayers getting from the schools compared to 40 or 50 years ago.. How much of todays school budget goes into Administrative cost over class room service to students? How much of todays budget goes to cover multiculturalism cost? How much of todays budget goes to Teacher Benefits and Union Contracts? In K12 performance, Oregon is #40 out of 51 States, that means only 11 states perform worse than Oregon.. See: https://www.parentsunited.org/press-releases/report-card-on-american-education-ranking-state-k-12-performance-progress-and-reform-january-26-2012-5/
    It is a fact that Oregon and the Nation as a whole has spent ever increasing mounds of Money on Education yet we are actually loosing ground, our kids are less literate, have less knowledge of their countries History, Presidents, Accomplishments, Rights of citizenship, free market system, world news, and most cannot even find Israel or Malaysia on a map… Our kids are being taught more and more of what to think rather than HOW TO THINK.. No, I believe we are getting far less bang for the buck today than in the past when it comes to education….

  • Acton Rand Shaffer

    Its always easy for one to vote for a levy when it includes mostly OPM Other People’s Money. I do not see voting a levy in any way commendable to those who take responsibility to send their children to private schools or home school their children in spite of political attacks and still forced to find public education. I never vote for a levy because I believe in separation of School and State.
    Please do not refer me a part of a community I do not recall giving permission.

  • Joe Jumalon

    It’s time for a state wide revolt, we already pay almost $13,000 per child & their performance scores have only gotten worse & our drop out level is about 2nd highest in the nation. These tax increases serve nothing but Public Union Greed & undermine the entire purpose of government & those who work for it. It is time for Oregon to be a Right To Work State!!