HOLD OFF MAKING MORE SCHOOL CUTS

July 10, 2002 12:00 am

Hold off making more school cuts

Oregon school districts should not get into too big of a hurry to lay off teachers and cut other staff following the Legislature's third — and hopefully final — special session this year. Legislators were called to Salem to deal with the state's revenue shortfall. The third session ended June 30.

OREGON'S kindergarten-through-12th- grade public school administrators would love to know exactly how much money their districts can expect to receive from the state to fund their 2002-03 budgets. But revenue uncertainty remains, and that could cause some districts to pull the trigger early and let some good staff members go.

Administrators should not jump the gun on additional cuts, but await the results of a special election Sept. 17. Oregon voters will be deciding on two issues referred by the Legislature that could help fund schools. The first is a 60-cent-per-pack increase in Oregon's cigarette tax. The state would sell bonds on the first 6 cents of the tax, producing $20 million to help fund schools.

The other Sept. 17 measure will have a familiar sound to it. The Legislature is asking voters to turn an educational endowment fund into a rainy-day fund for schools. If it passes, $150 million from the fund could help schools.

VOTERS REJECTED a similar referral in the May 21 primary that would have provided even more immediate cash for schools. Measure 13 was opposed by the Oregon Education Association and Oregon School Boards Association. But representatives of both groups indicate they may support the September measure because of the impacts on teacher salaries and school support that would occur should voters reject the budget plan.

Meanwhile, the La Grande School District and other districts in Northeast Oregon and around the state would do themselves and voters a favor by spelling out what programs and staff would be cut if both measures are turned down.

Education is a major priority for most Oregonians, and voters could support the measures if they clearly understand what's at stake in their schools should they fail.

HISTORY COMES ALIVE

The Think Link Discovery Museum has been on the forefront of providing quality educational exhibits and programs for La Grande-area children.

THURSDAY'S Pioneer Experience program for youngsters ages 8 to 12 years old is no exception. Kids will gather for two hours to learn more about the lives of the children who made the trip to Oregon in covered wagons.

The children Thursday will help make a quilt, churn butter and hear stories about the pioneers who made their way along the trail. Think Link recognizes the significance of the Oregon Trail to the history and development of our area. For children who miss out on Thursday's Pioneer Experience, we hope the organization repeats it sometime soon.