SCHOOL FUNDING - NO GUTS, NO CHANGE

January 27, 2003 12:00 am

On the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance last week, 1,000 teachers and students attended a rally in Salem to express their concern to the Legislature and governor that they believe funding for K-12 is too low and not stable. The rally was organized by the statewide teachers union, the Oregon Education Association.

Kris Kain, president of OEA, told those assembled that passage of Measure 28 would give the Legislature time to make decisions concerning K-12 funding. We have a message for Kain, but it's probably one the OEA president doesn't want to hear. The message is:

The Legislature isn't going to do anything about stabilizing K-12 funding because the Legislature and its leadership does not have the backbone needed to achieve any kind of sweeping reform. The Legislature might tweak how the money is being distributed since many on the west side of the state feel that too much money is being given to rural school districts.

Another message we have for Kain is that if teachers were really interested in solving the educational funding issue, they would include kindergarten through higher education in any solution. Educators across the board should consider getting a measure on the ballot that puts more of the educational funding model on property taxes, rather than on the state's general fund. We keep asking why someone doesn't lead an effort to rescind Measure 5.

Ever since the passage of Measure 5, every department of state government has suffered. There has been too much pressure on the limited resources of the general fund. We have also seen an erosion of local control over education and instead a surge in the power of the Legislature when dealing with education. In both cases this has been bad for education. Whether or not Measure 28 passes, the Legislature will not work to find a balanced approach to funding all of the state's financial needs, nor will it work to ferret out the waste that continues to drain educational dollars from the classrooms.

Until a group comes forward with a true reorganization of the education system (kindergarten through higher ed) in Oregon, the pressure for money will continue to be a constant battle when the Legislature meets. That includes a consolidation of every educational department, a consolidation of unnecessary school districts and a return to funding the majority of education with property taxes.

Only then will we see some light at the end of the educational tunnel.

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