STATE NEEDS NEW EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
Oregon has an educational crisis, and most of us would agree that we need to address the issue. Some Oregonians are trying to convince us that we need to pass a January 2003 income tax surcharge to allow the Legislature and governor three more years to come up with a plan to finance education in Oregon.
That sounds nice, but previous legislatures and governors have failed to address this behemoth that is costing taxpayers record amounts of money every year. Why should we believe anything will change?
WE WILL BEST solve Oregon's perceived educational (K-12) needs by abandoning the current system and creating a totally new one. As part of the solution, we need to consolidate K-12, Education Service Districts, community colleges and the state's seven universities into a new and all encompassing Oregon Education Department.
WE WOULD HAVE one chancellor overseeing the entire department. Under the chancellor will be 36 county superintendents, 15 community college presidents and 7 university presidents.
The Education Service Districts would be eliminated and those responsibilities would fall under the authority of the county superintendent. Each county, community college and university would have a board of directors to give it guidance. That would create 58 board chairpersons, along with 58 K-university administrators.
THIS CONSOLIDATION of administration would not necessarily close any schools in any community. What it would do is eliminate hundreds of management positions across Oregon's educational system and make it easier to hold everyone accountable. And it would strike at the heart of what a recent audit concluded about Oregon's schools: we are spending too much money on instruction benefits and support services about $545 per student.
It would allow a system that would work better at helping each student who enters public education to be followed from the moment they enter all the way through a university, if the students chooses to go that far. It would mean that two to three times a year, the chancellor could meet with all 58 administrators and 58 board chairpersons and have frank discussions about the state of Oregon's education. Those are levels of leadership that can clearly be managed and accountable to the taxpayers. Money can be saved and more money can get into the classroom.
Oregon spends $241 per pupil more than the national average. The three branches of education may talk, but no one is really planning how to integrate the overall needs of each student in the system. We spend too much money on support services because we are too provincial and unwilling to consolidate administration so that we can have greater efficiency.
Education is important; the statistics concerning earning power bear it out. The Legislature and new governor must recognize we need a complete revamping of our system. We cannot continue to fund education without fundamental changes and still maintain all the other necessary programs.