OBA Education Spotlight

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Education reformers walk the halls of the Capitol every session calling for improved governance, increased accountability, better curriculum, and a host of other changes. For the most part, these efforts have been unsuccessful and at times have unintentionally caused more harm than good. This scattershot approach to change has left Oregon with an educational system with abysmal rankings—one of the more recent being number 34 out of 41 states who applied for federal Race to the Top funds in 2009. Facing an obvious need for transformational change and an enormous budget deficit, a group of school district Superintendents from both large and small districts around Oregon decided that it was time to take the lead on reform.

This group of school district superintendents called on the Oregon Business Association, the Chalkboard Project, and Stand for Children to help them define a vision and a list of short- and long-term policy objectives for education in Oregon.

The Vision
We envision an Oregon where students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge they need to successfully pursue their dreams in a rapidly changing world. Oregon students must be equipped to compete in the global economy and contribute to society. This vision is about re-imagining our potential; with great leadership, it is possible.

The policy agenda includes many familiar reform ideas: improving statewide governance, increasing accountability, maximizing teacher quality, adopting a rigorous, internationally competitive curriculum, and closing the achievement gap (see our Education Agenda). The difference this time? It’s not about the money.

While everyone agrees that we could do more with more, our coalition of reformers is saying that there is a lot we can and should do no matter how much is allocated. Tillamook, Newberg and other Chalkboard Project CLASS districts are proof that changing existing structures is the key to improving teacher quality. Beaverton carved out funds within their existing budgets to enhance professional development and evaluations, and Baker blazed its own path to effective educational services at a significantly lower cost than its regional education service district.

Our coalition is encouraged by Governor Kitzhaber’s focus on education and his leadership to create a seamless zero to 20 education system that is integrated, efficient, and accountable. With strategic investment in the education continuum and a stable funding floor, the opportunity for transformational change is great. OBA continues to work with legislators, Governor Kitzhaber, the Chalkboard Project, Stand for Children, and the Superintendent task force to take advantage of this new vision and unique opportunity for reform.

OBA IN THE NEWS

Willamette Week ran a cover story on the package of education initiatives in today’s paper, which includes a quote from OBA President Ryan Deckert:

“In the past, the debate usually started and pretty much ended with the [K-12 fund] number,” says OBA president Ryan Deckert, a Democratic former state senator.  “Now we’re talking about governance and achievement and how to spend what we have more efficiently.”

To read the article, click here.

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