From CFM Insider Online:
"...The governor's new school funding plan and Saxton's teacher merit pay idea aren't likely to fire the imaginations of voters, who sense the problem [educational funding issues] lies deeper in the fabric of public education. When average citizens yak about schools, they talk about slipping academic achievement and dropouts. Employers bemoan the lack of training and skills many students possess. College officials quietly point out how many students who graduate from high school require remedial studies in basic subjects. Parents complain about the lack of meaningful choices for gifted students who demand a greater challenge and for average students who need motivation to learn. Insiders know the real challenge to funding educational improvement is finding a way to corral PERS and other teacher benefit costs..."
Contrary to CFM, the real challenge to funding education in Oregon is for the voters to wake up and realize, nothing can be done on the cheap. As long as Oregonians and corporate Oregon love their kickers more than their kids, nothing will change. It's not about PERS, sorry that's a very convenience scapegoat - make teachers pay for supporting schools by decreasing their retirement benefits since the voters won't up their own taxes. It's the old tax dodge, "Let George do it..." And until average citizens realize you can't teach a growing and more diverse student population in the same ways as previous generations - improvements will be slow. Improving academic achievement requires parental commitment to excellence (the at home strategy) and a robust curriculum taught by teachers with high expectations (the at school strategy).
You want educational excellence, then quit using the Wal-Mart model, instead of the Nordstrom's model. In other words, you get what you pay for. Since 1991 Oregonians have only been willing to pay for mediocrity, not excellence. So until we are willing to pay for excellence, we will get exactly what we deserve. But our kids will pay the price of our being penny-wise and pound foolish in diminished futures. Yes, there are bad teachers (and the system should quit protecting them); there are also incompetent principals (and they should be fired); but what seems really obvious in watching the Portland Public Schools fiasco - the problem starts at the top - with the School Board and the Superintendent. Quit blaming the victims - the kids. Focus on the adults.
RAD has been in Seattle for 4 days, hence the gap in new blogs. Below is an op ed piece by my journalist son whocovers the northend Seattle high school prep scene as a sports journalist for a weekly paper owned by the Washington Post. At a time when many of us are caught up in March Madness. Tony's comments are well worth considering at all levels of sports - from amateur to college to pro.
By Tony Dondero, Enterprise writer, Seattle, Washington
First of all, congratulations to all the winter sports teams and athletes on a memorable season. The season ended with four area basketball teams taking home trophies from the state tournaments: the King’s girls won their second consecutive Class 2A title, the King’s boys finished second in 2A, the Jackson boys finished fifth in Class 4A and Meadowdale girls placed eighth in 4A.
But one thing sticks in my mind about the season besides how basketball players attack a zone defense, how swimmers taper for the state meet or how wrestlers perform the fireman’s carry. It’s why have private schools and a few public schools in affluent communities done so well this past sports season?
One sports season does not make a trend, but many familiar schools always seem to be at or near the top. Private schools won six out of the 10 girls and boys championships in basketball this season. The Seattle Prep boys (Class 3A), King’s girls (2A), Lynden Christian boys (2A), Bellevue Christian boys (1A), LaSalle girls (B) and Northwest Christian (Colbert) boys (B) all took home titles. Chief Sealth, a public school in West Seattle, won the 3A girls title, but it is under investigation for recruiting violations.
In the largest class, 4A, the boys and girls champs came from public schools, but only a couple of private schools are in that classification. In 3A boys swimming, the top six teams included two public schools from affluent cities (Mercer Island and Bellevue) and four top-notch Seattle private schools (Kennedy, Lakeside, Seattle Prep and O’Dea). Of the 375 schools that compete in interscholastic athletics in Washington, 62 or 16.5 percent are private schools. Most of them compete in Class B.
Why are private schools doing so well in prep sports?
King’s, for example, is a Christian school that began in 1950 by Mike and Vivian Martin as a extension of a bible study and fellowship group for high school boys and girls from broken homes. An academically challenging school, it has dedicated teachers and staff members that stay for a long time, exceptional parental involvement and students who appreciate the school and want to be there. That success in the classroom has spilled onto the sports field.
Last year Sports Illustrated named King’s, which has won 25 team state titles, the best high school sports program in the state. While King’s successful track record in sports can be a magnet for students and parents, it’s not the only reason for going there. “(The) great majority of kids that come here... because of the academic program and Christian aspect,” said Eric Rasmussen, superintendent of King’s Schools and coach of the girls basketball team.
While athletically-talented students may go to schools like King’s, private schools cannot recruit athletes, although perceptions might be to the contrary. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which governs high school athletics in the state, bars “efforts to induce students to enroll in a member school because of the students’ special talent or skill,” for all member schools. Athletes at private schools also have to live within a 50-mile radius of the school.
RAD: A 50 mile radius in Seattle means that the recruitment area is large enough to cherry pick the best and brightest from Tacoma to Everett - equivalent to the entire Portland metro area. Growing up in Roseburg in the 50s, our highly successful American Legion teams benefitted from a simliar rule which allowed the coaches to recruit kids from area high schools, not merely RHS. Our high school basketball coaches also recruited the celebrated prep star, Jim Jarvis away from Coquille (along with his family, offered a lumber mill job). Anyone who saw "Hoop Dreams" knows how private schools in the midwest mine the market.
In Oregon why is it that in 4A sports, Lake Oswego, North Medford and Jesuit are always at the top? But we see such talent mining in major college athletics as well as in the pros. How else can one explain perennial powers in March Madness like Duke or UCLA? Or in football like USC and Miami? When is MJB going to break up the Yankees money-monopoly? Athletic competition is seldom played on a even playing field. By contrast mong pro sports the NFL and the NBA have done much to create parity. Seattle fans and Portland fans of the past have enjoyed those scents of victory.
Private schools can offer need-based financial aid for tuition based on complex formulas but not for athletic talent or even academic or artistic merit. At King’s annual tuition for a high school student is $9,095, which includes books and supplies. Of the 1,100 students at King’s Shoreline campus, 186 students or 17 percent are on financial aid, said Tom Burley, the school’s director of development. The average amount of financial aid given to a King’s student is 40 percent of the total cost of tuition.
King’s has to market to students and emphasize its strengths to keep up enrollment but “none of our coaches are out talking to junior high kids,” said Bob Ruhlman, King’s vice president for student life. Of the members on this year’s King’s girls title team seniors Sara Mosiman and Caitlyn Faidley, who started going to King’s as seventh-graders, were the only players not to have attended King’s since kindergarten.
But what might be most telling about strong high school programs, both private and public, is the number of athletes who participate in year-round club or select programs. Playing on those teams or programs is often a prerequisite to making a varsity team in some sports and it isn’t cheap. Some families can afford it while others can’t.
“It’s become a have and have-not issue that’s the sad thing about it,” said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA. We live in a society where schools, businesses and people are judged by results. High or low Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores. Profits and losses. Success and failure.\
High school athletics is supposed to teach that winning isn’t everything. It’s certainly something I had to learn during a high school soccer career while growing up outside Portland, Oregon [Forest Grove]. My teammates and I who came from a smaller, financially-strapped school, would sweep our preseason games only to get thrashed by the big suburban schools and a powerhouse private school in league play.
Life isn’t always fair and sometimes we need to learn how to be a good loser, we can’t always win. But I wonder what kind of society we live in if the same people are always on the losing side.
RAD: Perhaps this question is a good metaphorical question for trying to understand why some "losers" resent the "winners" so much - we Yankee or Laker haters. But more disturbingly for a society addicted to sports and the winning is everything motto - when the losers refuse to play their appointed roles - the Dick Cheney's of the world can't decipher reality from fiction - until its too late for our sons and daughters and the 'others' [i.e. Iraqis].
I found a cartoon I had kept from last June. It pictures Dick Cheney and Dubya walking together with a caption "We've turned the corner" - the corner they've exited is marked "INCOMPETENCE", the corner they are in is marked "FANTASY". On the 4th anniversary of the Iraq war when one Iraq leader has acknowledged what we see on our TV sets everyday - the reality of a civil war; Dick Cheney still insists are the acts of a desperate insurency. The problem is that in 'real' life - there are no quarters, no final second countdowns - no exits.
We're launching the largest air power assault on the insurgency since the invasion! Dick Cheney will no doubt come out and tell us that "the insurgents are on their last legs." Victory and regime change are just around the corner and Iraqis will have hot and cold running water soon!
By Russell Sadler
When a business starts to sell off capital assets to raise money for operating expenses, we assume the business is in trouble.
So when State Board of Higher Education Vice President Kirby Dyess, a retired Intel executive, suggested the state sell off or close one of its seven institutions to ensure the long-term financial health of the remaining six, it got the attention of not a few people.
Closing a campus suggests Oregon has an oversupply of university classrooms. But the demographic cohort of college-aged students in Oregon is not getting smaller. There is not an oversupply of classrooms, so there must be another reason the Oregon University system is stuck around 81,000 students. Tuition is rising so fast that a growing number of college-age students are priced out of the market.
Undergraduate tuition today now pays three-quarters of the cost of undergraduate instruction. Taxpayers just put up a quarter of the costs and that share continues to diminish. Today, more than half of all undergraduates borrow their tuition and the average undergraduate at an Oregon public university graduates with between $18-$23,000 in debt.
More than two-thirds of Oregon’s high school graduates with a B+ average or better now leave the state to go to college. The policy of raising tuition and shifting the cost of higher education onto students is creating a brain drain. There is no incentive to stay. Oregon public university tuition remains among the highest in the country. Students tell me if they are going to pay that much and go into debt at the beginning of their adult life to do it, they may as well see what the world is like out there.
Oregon has been eating its young since the Legislature began raising university tuition in the 1980s. Students are fully aware of the cost-shifting. They realize they are not being treated as well as the previous generation. They watch Oregon’s political paralysis.
Many students no longer see Oregon has as the Eden our forebears considered it to be. Oregon is no longer the Promised Land of Opportunity. Those who have the chance are simply leaving.
Talk of closing one or more of Oregon’s colleges is not unprecedented. “Normal schools” -- teacher training institutions -- in LaGrande, Monmouth and Ashland had outlived their mission by the end of World War II.
Southern Oregon University President Elmo Stevenson was dispatched to Ashland in the late 1950s to close Southern Oregon Normal School. He became enchanted with Ashland, impressed by the faculty and argued the college would have a place in the huge postwar wave of veterans attending college if the normal school was just turned into a small liberal arts college. Similar decisions save Eastern and Western Oregon Universities -- until now.
The present financial problem began during the 1980’s recession. The Legislature cut higher education appropriations and forced the Board of Higher Education to raise tuition to make up the difference with the understanding money would be restored when the economy got better.
By the time Oregon’s economy had recovered, however, the Republicans had taken control of both houses of the Legislature. They refused to restore the money per student that had been reduced during the recession.
The Republican mantra of “No New Taxes” only applies to income taxes. Oregon Republicans never saw a fee they didn’t like. Rising tuition dramatically shifted the burden of paying for college onto students.
When I completed my journalism degree at the University of Oregon in 1967, my tuition paid about one-fourth the cost of an undergraduate education. The taxpayers who put up the other three-quarters got it all back on higher income taxes I’ve paid during the last 40 years.
Lawmakers who were the beneficiaries of Oregon’s wise low- tuition policy 35-40 years ago are unwilling to do the same thing for this generation. The students know this and respond -- by leaving the state.
There is very little time to solve these problems before the smaller state universities are engulfed in red ink.
There are only two real choices and they do not include selling a campus and spending capital assets on operating expenses. That is the beginning of a death spiral.
The first choice is a phased return to the policy of low tuition that built Oregon’s post-World War II work force, one of the crucial underpinnings of Oregon’s prosperity in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I doubt there is the political will or leadership to do that.
The other alternative is to admit each campus is now on its own, end the stultifying centralized control of the University System and the Chancellor’s Office, give each institution its own governing board and let them create whatever programs they must to attract the students they need to survive.
Not all seven institutions will make it, but a fighting chance is preferable to the cannibalism Dyess is suggesting.
Editor's note: With today's headline news about Portland Public Schools Superintendant Vicki Phillip's "secret" plan to close 11 elementary schools in the next two years, the "burning the village to save the people strategy" seems to have caught on among Oregon's educational elite across the state. Why don't we wave the white flag of surrender now and outsource all K-12 education in the state to charter schools, the private sector or home schooling and outsource higher ed to Washington, Idaho and California? Then we could focus on what's really important - create centers of athletic excellence at the U of Oregon in football and track and at OSU in basketball and baseball. Maybe we could get the NBA, NFL, MLB et al to fund the programs. PSU, WO, EO, OIT - close 'em down! They simply don't pencil out!