The numbers tell a story

Sometimes you just have to sit back and let people prove themselves a fool. In this instance, the fools are those legislators who have bought the story that all Oregon’s failing education system needs is more money. The purveyors of this myth are the teachers’ unions and the public employees unions.

The legislature has just proposed a 17.7% increase in general fund appropriations for Oregon’s K-12 education. That means an increase from the current $5.3 Billion budget to $6.245 Billion. And that is only the state’s share of the budget. In addition, local property taxes add about $2.8 Billion. When added together you have a massive $9.02 Billion dedicated to K-12 education for the next biennium. That will boost Oregon’s average annual cost per K-12 student to $8,472. That is up almost a $1000 per student from 2005.

I went to the United States Department of Education website to gather information regarding school performance. Information for the 2006-07 school year was not available, so the most current information is for 2005-06. Following is how Oregon stacked up against its neighboring states in terms of performance vs. expenditures.

Math-Reading Scores…Student/Teacher..Cost per/Student

Colorado…..546…….17.0 …….$7,536.00
Arizona……..529…….21.3 …….$6,465.00

Oregon already expends more per student than any of the other regional states and yet its performance is in the middle of the pack. The student teacher ratio for Oregon schools is slightly below the average for the surrounding states even though it expends more per student than all of the states which have better student teacher ratios.

The 17 percent increase will put Oregon significantly ahead of its neighboring states in expenditures per student. One should expect that Oregon schools’ academic performance will match that increase. (Just as a measure of common sense, please remember that inflation is running around six percent per biennium and so the education funding increase is about three times the rate of inflation.)

A seventeen percent increase in funding. Wow. You would expect that Oregon would be in position to hire a whole herd of new teachers and reduce the student/teacher ratio down to at least the average of the surrounding states.
A seventeen percent increase in funding. Wow. You would expect that with Oregon already spending more than the surrounding states, that the performance level would shoot to the top of the heap – outdistancing even Washington.
A seventeen percent increwase in funding. Wow. With that kind of increase you would think the teachers unions and the public employees unions would be laughing up their sleeves. Well, one of those assumptions is true.

As much as we would like to think that these types of improvements would be the case, don’t hold your breath. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, of the nearly $1Billion in funding increases, nearly three-quarters of it will be required to fund existing collective bargaining requirements – increases in PERS funding, increases in health insurance, “step” increases (those are raises you get for simply being there for each year and are in addition to the salary increases) and inflation for goods and services. That does not include salary increases that will come about from collective bargaining sessions.

I don’t pretend to know whether the expenditures per student are too much or too little. I do know that there is no correlation nationally or regionally between the amount expended and the academic performance. I do know that we are frittering away about ten percent of the school funding on the failed CIM/CAM programs. I do know that teachers and public employee benefits (PERS and healthcare) are far in excess of any of the states in our region. I do know that the public employee unions have sole source contracts that prohibit schools from finding the lowest cost alternatives for non-educational services. I do know the teachers unions and the public employee unions have imposed work rules and grievance procedures that ensure that the poorest performing teachers are deemed the norm and are thus immune from termination. And I do know that private schools and charter schools routinely out perform the public schools in every category from academic achievement to cost efficiency.

And I do know that the same people who throw more money at Oregon’s failing educational system steadfastly refuse to acknowledge or treat any of these problems.

So, don’t hold your breath. A billion dollars more only bought you more of the same.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 06:19 | Posted in Measure 37 | 45 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Excellent points Larry. And, remember, Oregon pays out that money without actually checking TRUE daily attendance, so there are many, many phantom students directing that 8K per kid to districts where no kid actually is in class. This is a little known fact that no one seems willing to address ever.
    Districts are VERY SLOW to report drop-outs, students who have moved, no longer attend, etc. VERY SLOW – and no one checks, so the money just keeps flowing!

  • eagle eye

    “Oregon’s failing educational system”. Well, I don’t know. Among the states listed, the test scores are in the upper half — top 3/4 our of 7. Colorado is marginally higher. Washington is definitely higher. But Washington has much higher socio-economic status than Oregon — all those Microsoft people and so forth, higher average income. If we could move the Microsoft people to Oregon and ship the meth freaks, the unemployed loggers north, the test scores here would shoot up.

    All in all, I don’t see that Oregon is “failing”. Furthermore, there’s a rough correlation between expenditure and achievement levels — ROUGH, but draw a graph of test scores vs. expenditures, you’ll see it’s there.

    Larry Huss obviously doesn’t like PERS, doesn’t like the existing collective bargaining agreements. Fine — let him tell us how to do something about either of these — but trashing the public schools isn’t going to get him anywhere, because most people aren’t going to buy it.

    • Steve Plunk

      I have to agree. Oregon schools are not failing. There are certain areas where inprovements can be made but overall public schools do a passing job.

      I do not agree that increased spending yields better performance. Better management yields better performance and concentrating on core subjects will help students as well.

      The collective bargaining process is fatally flawed. The taxpayer is extremely underrepresented by school management and as a result of that the bargains struck are one sided. PERS is the best example of giving too much away. Put a good negotiators in there to counter the teachers union and you may see some good agreements come out.

      • eagle eye

        “The taxpayer is extremely underrepresented by school management”.

        I can’t really agree. Who elects the “management”? Well, the voters do. Not exactly synonymous with the taxpayers, but close.

        The fact is they elected Susan Castillo as state super of schools by an overwhelming margin. They elected Ted. Before that they elected Ted, Kitzhaber, Kitzhaber, Roberts … is there a pattern there? They elect the school boards. They can’t be too unhappy with how this “management” is running things, at least not compared with the alternatives.

        Larry Huss may think he has better ideas about things should be run, and maybe he does. But is anybody with any power whatsoever to influence things, advancing anything like these ideas? I don’t see it coming from the Republicans in the legislature.

        I just can’t see this stuff going anywhere.

        • Steve Plunk

          Negotiating other people’s money will almost always make the negotiator less aggresive. School boards and other school management personel have not and will not negotiate with the strength needed.

          Most school boards are made up of amatuers at management. Many of the members have conflicts of interest. A better system needs to be developed in order to control spending, especially spending on salaries.

          The start of getting something done can be happening here. Intellectual discussions and exchange of ideas is where changes come from. Knowing like minded people are thinking the same things you are can lead to alliances and political action. It also allows critics to expose weaknesses in aguments and eventually strengthen ideas.

          • eagle eye

            I agree that discussion is helpful in principle. There are a lot of things that would be done differently if I had my way. Just do not believe that calling the legislators “fools”, trashing the schools as “failing” when they are not, is the way to make headway. Nobody is going to be convinced but the true believers, who probably make up a third or less of the electorate.


    Bad schools……………….welcome to the socialist state of Oregon! Bad and over financed schools are one of the many benefits you’ll learn to enjoy……

  • baldeagle

    Huss fails to tell you that Oreon is 14th from the bottom in per pupil spending. 36 states spend more on their pupils. His slight of hand in extapalation of data is notorious. Go the same site he mentioned and do your own research.

    Voting against education is voting against your own economy. Well educated members of our citizens are what drives economic gains. Truck drivers make more $’s per year than a teacher.


      The most recent figures as reported by USA Today show Oregon well with in the top 15 of states in per capita spending per student.

      Now, where he is right is that Oregon, since it starts with an O is 14 states from the bottom when all are listed in alphabetic order, which is the only way baldeagle could have come up with the above mis-statement.

      It would appear that Huss’ notorious extrapulation of data is 2nd only baldeagles.

      Granted, due to the extravagent contracts and benefits the teachers get in this state the money that actually goes to the student for instruction is far less. Unfortunately that’s due to greedy, uncaring public unions and not cheap, uncaring OREGON taxpayers.

      Might I add that retired Oregon teachers are exempt from paying Oregon income tax. Anyone know a truck driver who has that extra benefit?

      HOW TO READ LIST: Note size of Oregon per student cost, count # of other states whose cost’ are less than Oregon. The result of the previous will be the ranking of per student cost of Oregon.

      Ala. – $5,601
      Alaska – 8,743
      Ariz. – 5,033
      Ark. – 5,470
      Calif. – 6,298
      Colo. – 6,165
      Conn. – 8,800
      Del. – 8,030
      D.C. – 9,933
      Fla. – 5,691
      Ga. – 6,417
      Hawaii – 6,487
      Idaho – 5,218
      Ill. – 7,185
      Ind. – 6,871
      Iowa – 6,547
      Kan. – 6,211
      Ky. – 5,922
      La. – 5,652
      Maine – 7,595
      Md. – 7,496
      Mass. – 8,444
      Mich. – 7,662
      Minn. – 7,051
      Miss. – 5,014
      Mo. – 6,143
      Mont. – 6,214
      Neb. – 6,422
      Nev. – 5,736
      N.H. – 6,742
      N.J. – 10,283
      N.M. – 5,748
      N.Y. – 10,039
      N.C. – 5,990
      N.D. – 5,830
      Ohio – 6,999
      Okla. – 5,394
      Ore. – 7,027
      Pa. – 7,824
      R.I. – 8,242
      S.C. – 6,114
      S.D. – 5,521
      Tenn. – 5,343
      Texas – 6,145
      Utah – 4,331
      Vt. – 7,938
      Va. – 6,839
      Wash. – 6,394
      W.Va. – 7,093
      Wis. – 7,716
      Wyo. – 7,421
      U.S. – 6,835

      • Captain_Anon

        but what exactlyl is “extravegant” salaries and benefits? what is ‘appropriate’? How far from appropriate are oregon teachers? how far from the national average are they? and do we want our teachers to be at the exact average in pay and benefits?

        • Bailie

          Oregon average K-12 teacher salary is $48,330. The median state average salary is $43,348. That is a difference of about $150 million every year just for teacher salaries. There is more than $200 million difference in benefits. That difference is the primary cause of Oregon’s K-12 funding problems. Oregon is in the lower half of states in affluence (currently 28th).

          • Captain_Anon


            you didn’t answer the question. You just basically said, they make an average of $48,000. so what? WHY is that extravigent? If it IS extravigent, what should they make? and why? so what if it costs 150 million? that all depends on how many teachers there are, and that is dependant on how many kids are in school. so that is moot. explain to me WHY thier salary is “extravagent” and what it SHOULD be, and WHY it should be that. saying because the ‘average oregonian income is” doesn’t cut it. so should doctors and lawyers, and waitresses make that much too?

      • Ted kennedy’s Liver

        The figure quoted in your list for Oregon only includes general fund dollars, it is not an “all funds” figure. The state hasn’t spent $7000 per student since 1995. The 2005-2007 statewide average all funds figure per student is over $10,000.


  • believeitornot

    Yeah baldeagle needs new glasses, but let’s be clear.

    15 states have higher per pupil expenditures than Oregon.
    20 states on the list are in the range of 6 to 7 thousand per pupil,

    That means 15 states are lower than 6 thousand per pupil in the United States.

    Some kids are in classes of 38 or more. Try teaching 5 periods a day with 32 kids in each class. The teacher is responsible for 160 kids every day.

    Railing against teacher’s pay and benefits must be great fun. Wonder how many of them would rather be driving a truck?

  • Bailie

    The Oregon K-12 compensation level is the primary reason Oregon is in perennial education funding crisis. Oregon K-12 employees are the 8th highest compensated in the U.S. (Chalkboard Project 2005). Because of the high compensation, Oregon’s education options are limited. Oregon could hire more than 5,000 additional teachers, have longer school years, smallers class sizes if compensation were closer to the median states (which Oregon is).

    • Captain_Anon

      No they couldn’t. hardly anyone but the dropouts would want to work for a starting salary of 25,000 and put up with the BS that comes with the job. those 5,000 slots you believe would be available would go unfilled

  • Chris McMullen

    Yep, no shortage of teachers here — Oregon is obviously very attractive to teachers due to the high salaries and bennies.

    My part-time co-worker is moving back to his home state because his wife can’t get a teaching job here, compounding the fact he can’t get a full time job here either.

    This state is headed down the shitter.

  • Captain_Anon

    I had heard on the news that part of the big increase was due to increased funding to colleges and universities. is this not true?

    • eagle eye

      Higher education got a proportionate increase in funding in this year’s budget. Meaning its share of the total state general funds budget will hold about steady this year, for a change. It’s been declining for almost two decades. It’s a relatively small part of the education budget — K-12 is much bigger. Another thing: higher education is split into two parts, community colleges, which the state supports, and the Oregon University System (4 year and graduate programs) which the state runs.

  • Oh Really

    How come most teachers who enter the field of teaching leave within 5 years? It must be the great working conditions and big fat salaries.

  • paltry paychecks

    Typical college campus chat, “Why do you want to go into teaching, theres no money in it.?

    The NEA reports 20% of new teachers left their job within one year.

    I’m going to be a..with a starting salary of:

    private accountant- 44K
    consultant – 50K
    industrial engineer – 50K
    management trainee – 36K
    sales – 37K
    software developer – 55K

    TEACHER -32K

    The teachers top salary after 25 years of teaching is 55K

    How many of your kids have you advised to become a teacher?

    • Sherry

      The reason for the difference in compensation is that education majors are the easiest major in college. Also, the lowest entrance requirements in college. Also, the lowest scoring personnel in SAT tests of all college majors. Also, the short working year (less than 190 day contract in Oregon).


      Read the below, these are current NEA stats for Oregon teachers (2 pay raises ago in 2005,right off their site ) Paltry paychecks , where did you get your stats? You state their pay but not their benefits or the fact that that pay is for a 9 month school year. They recieve extra compensation if they work summer school.

      The average citizen salary in Oregon is $40,000 and that’s for 12 months work………………and believe me the private sector benies are nothing compared to PERS benies (look them up before commenting they are).

      “At $48,330*, Oregon was ranked 15th in the nation for average teacher salaries in 2005. Oregon is relatively low on the scale for cost of living which should push that number 15 up even a few more notches. This is not surprising when considering the beautiful and highly educated cities in Oregon. We predict Oregon will continue to be among the top states for educational funding for some time to come.

      Future Oregon Teachers: Starting pay is only one perk to beginning a career in education in Oregon. Teacher mentoring programs and support teams have paved the way for progress across the board in Oregon’s public educational system. One requirement of new and old teachers alike, is continuing education and higher qualifications. For those who wish to make the most change in their communities however, further education is something to look forward to. Gather information on certification and advanced degree programs that will help propel your career in education.

      Current Oregon Teachers and Administrators: Experienced teachers and administrators in Oregon have garnered significant support for education. However, leadership roles are constantly needing to be filled as many retire or move on to other positions in education. Oregon needs highly educated and qualified individuals with proven track records of educational success to carry the torch. If you are an experienced teacher or administrator in Oregon who wishes to create mobility for your career, an ability to be the best educator you can be and also earn a more satisfying salary, Oregon’s public education system is making enticing compensation packages for those who earn their Master’s degree, PhD or Administrative Credentials from accredited universities.

      * NEA 2005 Stats”

      Up a few would be 12-ish, not bad out of 50!

    • Ted kennedy’s Liver

      Top teacher salary at pps is close to $70k + an annual benefits package worth another $30k + a weeks vacation at Christmas, + a weeks vacation at spring break, + “in service” days and, oh yeah, there’s that whole not having to work for 3 months in the summer thing – not to mention the fact that you’re knocking off at 3PM. Yep. Sounds like a pretty lousy gig to me.


    Thanks TKL! I have no repect for the posts on here about this issue since most are probably PERS teachers… I do respect Capt. ANON’S posts since he at least has the intelligence to do his homework prior to posting! It’s not hard to find the truth on the web…………….Some people seem to find it hard to accept only if it doesn’t adhere to their views!


      Please state your sources…………2006 was an 8% increase but I’m not sure what 2007 was. Using 2005 data is perfectly reasonable, in fact what the teachers were making back then is great money even for today. Their pay and benies have down nothing but go up since 2005; I guess you’d rather see the highers numbers of todays compensation but it wouldn’t lend any weight to your point.

  • torridjoe

    comparing 2007 to 2005 is a little stupid, isn’t it? Considering that the funding levels in the previous two budgets led to things like closed schools and teachers working for free. The 17% was needed just to bring us closer back to break even.

    Why aren’t you moaning about the huge increase in OSP funding? Those damned public employees!

    • eagle eye

      Are you talking about the huge percent increase in public safety and prison expenditures? And how about transportation and human services. All of these got a lot more than education. Not much here about excessive expenditures on public safety, or highways, is there?

    • Chris McMullen

      There goes Torrid again: the big government lackey and purveyor of bogus information.

      If you took the time to research the all funds budgets on the OED web site you’d find the following:

      99-01: $5.725 billion
      01-03: $6.26 billion
      03-05: $6.43 billion
      05-07: $6.65 billion
      07-09: proposed $9 billion ?!?!?

      The budget has increased every year since 1999. Once again you lie in order to justify increasing the salaries of your selfish government class.

      You make me sick.

      • eagle eye

        Gee, the budget has increased every year? I guess tax revenues must have gone up. Does that mean the size of the Oregon economy has increased every year? People must be making more money every year. What a scandalous thought!

        Actually, the education budget figures you have posted look pretty flat, after taking into account inflation. I guess schools are due for a big increase.

        And now, what about the huge public safety budget increase?

        • Chris McMullen

          “I guess tax revenues must have gone up.”

          What does that have to do with anything? Just because tax revenues go up doesn’t mean it has to be spent.

          *Oh yeah, I forgot I’m addressing yet another big government troll…*

          The proposed $9M budget is an increase of 36% over 99-01 biennium. Oregon’s school age population has increased by less than 17% since 2000.

          Keep grasping for straws, Fool.

          P.S. I’m all for public safety getting an increase (if managed correctly) since credit card fraud, identity theft, robbery, assault, car theft, and drug use keeps increasing in this state.

          • eagle eye

            Sounds like you’re happy to throw big increases to public safety — because it keeps failing to stop crime, I guess? — yet you’re unhappy about throwing a smaller increase to education. Pretty typical of the articles on this website, which is why I bring it up. I can’t stop you from being so ridiculously inconsistent, but I can at least bring it up and maybe you’ll learn some day.

            As for being a fool — I guess I’m with the 72% of the populace that voted against the TABOR-style Measure 48 last year. I actually think it’s a good thing for schools and other public services to share in the increasing bounty. If that makes me a big-government troll, count me in with the vast majority.

            Keep talking to yourselves here, you’re really making a lot of headway!

          • Chris McMullen

            Nice to see you avoiding the budget increase % compared to student population increase % — why am I not surprised? You obviously can’t handle the truth.

            As for the public safety increase (which is your off-topic, straw man argument; but I’ll play anyway), our liberal immigration laws and nanny-state public policy have exacerbate crime in Oregon. As I said *if managed correctly* an increase in funding is warranted. A nominal increase in education funding is warranted as well *if managed correctly.*

            So far our best in the west education funding hasn’t yielded superior results.

          • eagle eye

            OK, I’ll tell you the truth. Your so-called budget figures are moronic. I was trying to be tactful in not mentioning it. So much for my kindness. Now I’ll get to the point. What part of I (you) don’t know what I’m talking about don’t I (you) get?

            In the first place, you mean to say $9B as in billion, not $9M as in million. But what’s the difference between a million and a billion among friends?

            The real number in the governor’s proposed budget for 07-09 was $7.386B. Billion. Look here:


            Admittedly, that’s the General Fund number. You can pick any number you want. The fact is, the % increase is nowhere near your ridiculously inflated figure. It’s more like half of what you claim.

            If you want to knock the public schools, learn to do eighth-grade math first. Or do you blame your own shortcomings on the schools too?

          • Chris McMullen

            All Funds budget, Moron, is $9 Billion.

          • eagle eye

            Actually, it’s more like $13 billion. Go to the Governor’s budget site that I mentioned.

            But let that pass. Your % increase figure (35% over the last biennium) is ridiculous. Anyone with an ounce of sense would know it couldn’t possibly go up that much.

  • Jerry

    Once again this issue about teachers and salaries keeps coming up. I must tell you, as I was a teacher in Oregon and an administrator for 19 combined years, that the single biggest problem in all of Oregon K-12 education is the teacher’s union.

    The union has forced districts to employ teachers who could not, if their lives depended on it, get jobs anywhere else, including truck driving.

    The union has forced shorter work days, more prep time, more time off for grading, conferences, etc. The union, in short, has made sure that teachers actually instruct your children for the least amount of time possible. The actual time students spend in true instruction in the classroom is appallingly short.

    The union has made sure all teachers are paid the same, regardless of performance.

    The union has done everything in its power to reward the lazy and incompetent, keep out any competition, and to maintain the status quo, which is obviously not working.

    The answer is the union if you are brave enough to ask the question.

    I have NEVER had anyone EVER be able to show me one thing the Oregon Education Association (UNION) has ever done that actually helped a kid. Not once…EVER!

    There you have it people. It is the truth. Deal with it.

  • eagle eye

    “The numbers tell a story”. They sure do. Go to the Governor’s budget proposals. Public safety and corrections, human services, transportation all got much bigger percentage increases than education. I don’t see too many articles here complaining about the “bloated” public safety and prison budgets. About how it’s all a waste of money. Let’s have some of that and then come back to education.


      Maybe some will post a story about the bloated services, safety and transportation budgets so we can have a conversation about them. Right now the only article on here is the bloated school budget.

      I am curious why it is so easy for me to find stats to support my argument but the dtractors of my argument only have conjecture and personal opinions. If you’re going to make an argument……state your sources!

      • eagle eye

        Try this:


        Education (general fund): up 15.9%

        Public safety (general fund/includes corrections): up 23.4%

        Transportation (“other” funds/nonfederal — I assume this is gas taxes): up 28.9%

        Human services: (general fund): up 27.2%.

        I’m curious then why the constant focus here on the supposedly bloated education budget.

        • CRAWDUDE

          I can’t answer your question EE , I only respond the the particular articles on Catalyst. I will give you my opinion if you’d like to hear it.

          The ED budget dwarfs every other budget and that might be why it is keyed on.

          My main gripe is with the pay and benefits that are given to ALL state emplyess, not because I feel they are wrong but because I know they are not sustainable. Even with Gov. K’s liberal limp dick revamping of the PERS a few years ago the unfunded defict will still grow. He fixed nothing he only extended the insolviency a few years.

          Guy, a plan that allows anyone 100% pension while not paying any state income tax is wrong, not wrong when it was developed but wrong with todays economic trends. I won’t be here when the people of this state have to pay the piper but I believe a real change in the PERS now will soften the blow later.

          It would appear from the above thread that many PERS employees view this site and don’t believe what I’m saying. I do believe they are burying their heads in the sand…………………………and will refuse to admit they’re wrong when it all hits the fan.

          • eagle eye

            “a plan that allows anyone 100% pension while not paying any state income tax is wrong”

            If you believe that about PERS, you simply don’t know what you’re talking about. Very few people get 100% pension. Nobody is exempt from state income tax by virture of PERS.

          • CRAWDUDE

            I stand corrected! Up until 1991 PERS retirement income was not taxable income. That laws was changed in 1991 making it taxable income, the legislature then gave all the effected PERS people a 6% raise in their benefits to cover the cost of having to pay the extra taxes. Kinda a slight of hand in my opinion but I was wrong stating what I stated. Sorry.

          • eagle eye

            Sounds about right. I wasn’t paying any attention back then to these things. It sounds like they did what they had to do to make it legal to change the rules on taxation. The idea that state pensions are not subject to state income taxes is widespread, but just not true, as a lot of PERS recipients will tell you.

            Adding to the confusion, income from government pensions is NOT subject to local income taxes. Has to do with the 1991 change, and also a court ruling on federal pensions. Very strange rules in Oregon.


    Oh contaire, you really need to look that last statement up, PERS retirement pension payments are exempt from Oregon income tax.

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)