Superb Oregonian article today on education $$$

Hats off to Steven Carter and Scott Learn of The Oregonian for fantastic article in the paper about Oregon’s education budget. The headline ran..

$1 billion barely makes a dent in class sizes

Tax money to operate Oregon public schools will rise by roughly $1 billion the next two years, but a review of district budgets for the fall shows most parents will see only small improvements in their children’s schools.

Combining state and local taxes, Oregon schools will have 14 percent more money to spend in the next two years. They’ll get more than $9,200 per student — most of it from a record $6.245 billion in state school aid approved by the Legislature and expected to be signed into law this week by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. …

But increased costs — particularly for health care and salaries — will gobble just over half of the new money in a state where both school employee benefits and class sizes remain among the highest in the nation. Most of the new money comes with little accountability on how it will be spent.


Every concerned citizen should read this article.
article Keep up the good work Steve & Scott.

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  • CRAWDUDE

    Wow! The Oregonian finally writes a decent article on this matter. Folks, it’s not anti-teacher to say that the compensation package (that doesn’t mean pay) is too expensive / unsustainable.

    Couple that with the highly unsustainable PERS retirement system and most of the school budget increases go directly to the employees which doesn’t increase the quality of the education given at all.

    “a state where both school employee benefits and class sizes remain among the highest in the nation.” as quoted by the above article. We can bury our heads in the sand and wring our hands while claiming this isn’t true but we lie only to ourselves. If we don’t fix the problems now………….think what 15 years from now is going to be like.

    Drop the pensions to 1% for each year of service at retirement (30 years= 30%), find better and cheaper health care benefits for teachers where available and start having them pay a higher percentage for office visits, perscriptions , electives etc…, increase their pay for the first 5 years to offset the health benefit cost increase(after that they’re on their own like the rest of us) and also fund a 401-K matching the 1st 6% of their pay. This would all eventually decrease the tax burden of their benefits while still supplying them with a quality benefits package and retirement more in line with the main stream of Oregon.

    In fact, if we went with the above plan for all future employees of Oregon, we’d be able to eventually sustain levels of services with very few if any tax increases for a long time. (of course, current employees would be allowed to stay in their current retirement systems if they desired, a contract is a contract! Breaking our part of the agreement wouldn’t be right!)

    I’m curious in the public employees unions would be ready to help their state out in this……………..in my opinion, no!

    I’ll be retired and back home in Minnesota when this house of cards finally collapses , I won’t enjoy seeing it but unless we get on the road to fixing it, it is inevitable!

    • eagle eye

      It’s not going to happen if Oregon keeps electing Democrats which increasingly has been the trend for many years now.

      By the way

      “most of the school budget increases go directly to the employees which doesn’t increase the quality of the education given at all.”

      doesn’t make much sense to me. Where do you think the school budget mostly goes if not to “the employees”? The question is how the money is spent on employees, not how much of it goes to them.

      • CRAWDUDE

        I would hope that the majority of any budget would go to books, educational equipment, new facilities when needed, etc….. apparently the minority of it goes to those things while the majority goes to employee compensation package that don’t decrese class size (therefore not allowing for a higher quality learning environment).

        Every year the government needs more money for schools but when it gets it, the results are the same class sizes don’t come down employee benefits package costs go up………….with no increase in the quality of the education e.g. No Bang for the Buck.

        As far as your quote from above “Where do you think the school budget mostly goes if not to “the employees”? The question is how the money is spent on employees, not how much of it goes to them.”

        I’ve read it 10 times and still only come up with the question “What?”. Sorry EE, that makes no sense to me at all.

        Have a great Sunday!

        • eagle eye

          Books are only a small part of the educational budget. Facilities are a bigger share, but still relatively small. The lion’s share goes to personnel, and of that, most goes to teachers. All of this is well-known. If books taught, teachers wouldn’t be necesary, but of course, teachers do most of the teaching, that’s why we have schools.

          Here’s another stab at my sentence: most of the money is going to go for personnel, especially teachers; that is a given. The question is how that money is distributed. Better to pay teachers more per individual, and have fewer of them, larger classes, perhaps better trained and more skillful teachers? Or better to spend less per teacher, have more of them, smaller classes, etc.

          I would say the answers are not obvious, but wisely or not, Oregon has chosen to pay more per teacher (including benefits).

          • CRAWDUDE

            Ah, I see what you mean now.

            I still believe they should be able to have smaller clases with the budget they are given, since they don’t seem to be able to then they need to adjust compensation to allow for more teachers that will then decrease class size.

            Rick has a point too, if we weren’t spending as much of our Ed. budget on illegals we’d be able to fund more teachers and smaller classes.

            Put all these ideas together and Oregon could have an awesome education system! Sadly, we don’t and won’t….:(

          • eagle eye

            Unfortunately, I don’t see much alternative to educating the illegals. If they are going to be here — and there’s not much that Oregon alone can do about this — they had better get educated.

          • eagle eye

            Oops, I meant the post about the illegals to go below.

            Re the class sizes: yes, holding down teacher compensation to national averages (or a little less) would enable smaller class sizes. In the lower grades, this would probably be a good thing, as education research shows that this does make a difference — but only in the lower grades.

            I wonder if there is any reason to think that Oregon gets better teachers by paying more?

            In the higher grades, that might be the case, if the money was being used to hire people who actually are well-trained in their subjects, especially in areas like math and science where there is more competition for skilled people in the outside market.

            I wouldn’t bet on it, not in the union-controlled world of Oregon public education.

            Unfortunately, the public doesn’t seem to care enough about the issue of teacher compensation to do anything about it. If anything, the public likes the present setup just fine, to judge by the way the elections are going.

          • CRAWDUDE

            True! Only the Oregon voters can change the future of this state and they don’t seem to care much as far as the Educational system goes.

          • Sybella

            I don’t have so much problem with the teachers earning more. Thinking back to when I was a student a lot of years ago, most of my class sizes were any where from 35 to 40 students. Now everybody thinks that’s huge, but where I grew up it was the norm. Learning wasn’t a problem, because the teachers had control of the classroms. I don’t see that control now. We were there to learn and most of them saw to it we did or we were out. Our parents backed up the teachers. I knew if i messed up there would be h— to pay at home. I’m wondering if a lot of the problem today, isn’t how much teachers are paid, whether they are good or not, or how big the class is, but lack of control. The biggest thing I hear now, isn’t how smart the student is, but how much that student is involved in. Schools it seems have evolved from a place of learning to a place of providing entertainment and social life for the students. Social life has it’s place and it’s good, but not to the extent learning isn’t happeningt

  • Rick Hickey

    They forgot the part about Immigrants Illegal and legal are the #1 reason for all the growth in Schools and the extra expense of the failed bilingual programs, that can go on for 10 years, as their is no time limit on those extra funds going out.

  • bob reid

    There is only one solution–vouchers. Let the parent shop for his childs education. This will improve both the cost and quality of education.

  • Jerry

    Hey all you people – figure it out – it will NEVER matter how much Oregon spends on education and our education system will NEVER improve as long as the union controls not only it, but the legislature. I am correct because our ed system keeps failing, we keep spending more on it, and the union is in charge. There is no way this fact can be refuted. NONE.

    All the other stuff you talk about is meaningless. This I know.

    I agree with Bob – vouchers make perfect sense. So much sense that they will never be available in Oregon, where mediocrity is the key to our fine education system.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again even though it doesn’t work. Sound familiar?

    • DMF

      You are absolutely right. Now how do we get rid of the Unions?

      • CRAWDUDE

        We’d have to get rid of their governmental puppets in Salem first; so far the voters have decided not to.

        • DMF

          That’s the problem, What do we do with the voters? I suppose they’re too afraid to stand up to the state.

  • Jerry

    I think everyone is too afraid to do anything. The children suffer while we do nothing.
    Sad.
    Pathetic.
    Wrong.

  • responsibility

    Oregon: West Virginia without a beach.
    History lesson: teachers were predominately male then World War I came, teachers became female, wages went down, not allowed to marry. The men came back and the wages went up, male teachers could marry. World War II, women filled the ranks and a few women administrators appeared, wages went down. Teachers organized unions somewhere in there because of discrimination, under pay, and absurd hours. Teachers have always had to work night jobs and summer jobs to make ends meet and they still do. It takes a good ten years to get into the $45K per year range but my kid walked out of OIT after guzzling beer for 4 years and made $80K as a beginning salary. He sits in a cubicle all day designing software. Entrust your kids to those rich teachers and whine about their retirement while you are at it. Don’t forget all those years of frozen salaries, 2% pay increases that don’t come close to matching inflation. Kick um’ while they are down boys.

    • CRAWDUDE

      I’m not sure if you were on last week but we had this conversation on this board. While I’ll not condemn the compensation package for teachers because it’s not their fault what are legislators are willing to give the unions.

      The average Oregon income is $40,000 for 12 months work and most don’t basically to free high quality health care, 3-4 weeks vacation a year and 8 hours of sick leave a month.

      As you state teachers get $45,000 for a 9 month year (paychecks spread over the 12 months though)………so they are free to get a summer job if they want…….it’s extra cash. They do get 3-4 weeks vacation time (for their 9 month work year), 8 hours sick leave a month and in most districts free high quality health care. Lets not forgot the very equitable retirement system they are under also.

      Teachers do a hard job and most do a good job but they aren’t the poverty stricken martyrs that you portray them as, at least not in this state.

      Please read the following carefully, I got it from the NEA website. Oregon is one of the primary states they suggest new teachers apply for a job at due to the excellent compensation package.

      Teacher candidates choose where to work based on the total package of compensation, not just the
      weekly paycheck. The amount each state spends on benefits is almost wholly ignored when
      discussing education finance.
      The U.S. average for public school teachers is 27.3 cents of benefits for every dollar of salary. The
      results from Table 9 show enough of a spread among the various states for us to come to a few
      conclusions about how states allocate money for teachers. A relatively low-paying state like West
      Virginia looks a lot more inviting when benefits are computed. The same may be said for Utah.
      Indiana, Oregon and Michigan, all relatively high-paying states, should be meccas for prospective
      teachers because they match their high salaries with high benefits ratios.
      If low-paying states also have low benefits ratios, as in Texas, then we can expect to see severe
      teacher shortages, even if such states offer other inducements.
      Though researchers often try to offset regional differences in cost-of-living when computing
      teacher salaries and per-pupil spending, they omit one factor that may have a great deal to do with
      whether a prospective teacher will take a job in one state over another: income taxes.
      Nine states do not tax income – Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota,
      Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming – giving teachers, and everyone else in these states,
      an effective five to six percent raise. At the same time, the majority of teachers in DC, Arkansas,
      California, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah (assuming their income is
      computed separately from other household members) can find themselves paying the top marginal
      rates, which in California is 9.3 percent.