Two long held education issues were vindicated by conservatives this year. The failure of CIM/CAM and the exposing of runaway budget reserve funds.
End of CIM/CAM
Oregon’s top school official, Susan Castillo, announced last week that she seeks to end the controversial CIM/CAM program — a program loathed by teachers and fought by conservatives since it began nearly 15 years ago.
It was humorous to watch the Legislative hearings over the years as supporters of CIM/CAM dwindled to just a few supporters, and still the program survived despite its rampant unpopularity. Castillo wants to replace the program with something else, and everyone expects her to make the same mistakes as the first program. Any new program is likely to be experimental, burdensome to teachers, and lack any type of teacher autonomy.
We need to recognize the great efforts of Rep. Linda Flores, Rob Kremer, Ron Sunseri, and Steve Schopp for their long struggle to liberate teachers from this failed bureaucratic nightmare.
The “budget reserve” issue — school districts holding money in one hand while holding out the other — finally broke in the media when the Statesman Journal reported that our schools stockpiled over $526 million dollars in reserve accounts. Woodburn had close to 33% of its entire budget in reserve. Hillsboro had $17 million in reserve when they cut the school year by 17 days for lack of funds.
This issue was pressed diligently for many years by Senator Gary George (and a favorite topic by radio host Larry George, Gary’s son). I remember asking several lawmakers, budget officials, and journalist to look into this issue. I always got the same answer, namely that all reserve funds are dedicated funds that can’t be touched and that abuse of the reserve funds didn’t exist. This summer, the Statesman Journal finally exposed the problem. Castillo ran to cover up the public embarrassment by pledging to set percentage limits on how much a school can reserve.
The lesson to learn from these examples is that the leaders in Oregon lack the courage, self-criticism, and honesty to make tough decisions. It took fifteen long years for us to realize that CIM/CAM was a failure. This came at a great expense to our teachers, students, and parents. It begs the question, what other key Oregon issue needs be changed before we have to wait another 15 years to admit our mistakes?