SKY KEEPS FALLING FOR OREGON SCHOOLS

March 06, 2003 12:00 am

Enterprise schools have been decimated by declining enrollment and the continuing cuts in funding. The district's board this week approved more staff cuts in order for the district to balance next year's budget. The district will slash another six full-time and four half-time positions, bringing to 22 the number of positions that have been cut over the past five years. The 22 positions represent a 50 percent reduction in staffing. Imagine what a 50 percent cut in staff would do to most organizations — private or public. The news isn't good and it isn't getting any better.

IN OUR REGION, Enterprise is usually the first district out of the blocks with plans to address budget issues. Although Enterprise is suffering greater declines in enrollment than most other districts, the district's moves are a harbinger of things to come for other districts. Teaching positions and other jobs are or soon will be on the chopping block at most school districts. As sad as that is for kids and the people who hold the positions, the reality is that with the budget mess Oregon is in and the Legislature's steadfast refusal to consider new revenue, there aren't any choices left except to cut personnel.

As Enterprise Superintendent Brad Royse said, "This is a community crisis, not just a school crisis.'' He noted that the loss of positions will have triple the effect on the local economy because of the fact payrolls circulate locally.

OTHER COMMUNITIES WILL be facing the same reality as budgets for the 2003-2004 school year are developed. Jobs and programs will be disappearing and class sizes increasing. And perhaps most distressing of all is that, other than waiting for the economy to improve, no solutions are on the horizon.

Measure 28 wasn't a smokescreen. As far as education and public health and safety are concerned, the sky has fallen.

BE CAREFUL WITH RECORDS

The Legislature is considering closing access to some public records and meetings in the name of security. Lawmakers need to tread cautiously when they start messing around with the public's access to information.

AFTER 9/11, Congress passed the sweeping Patriot Act, which creates limits on access to government while broadening government's secret access to citizens. And as the feds consider an even more intrusive Domestic Security Enhancement Act, states are considering their own laws to enhance government secrecy.

Our Legislature — and government in general — needs to be careful about going too far in closing off public access to information.

Government has been known to push secrecy too far. The best watchdog is an informed citizenry.