Schools

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Tax Breaks: Out of Control Growth

Here's a startling fact: Since 2009, the amount of money the state gives away in tax breaks -- many of which go to big corporations and the wealthy -- has increased by a whopping 29%. According to this year's projections, the state will give away $36 billion in tax breaks this budget cycle. That's a $3 billion increase from the previous budget cycle.

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Graduation rates tell a simple story: You get what you pay for

The new statewide graduation rates released yesterday by the Department of Education are understandably getting a great deal of attention. The four-year high school graduation rates have improved a bit, but are still at about 68 percent.

Experts are diving into the numbers on a district-by-district and school-by-school basis, trying to find patterns that can lead to more success across the state. But the numbers paint a very simple picture: If we want to improve K-12 education and increase graduation rates, we have to fund schools like they really are a priority.

For most of the past decade, funding for schools has been on a rapid decline. Even the Governor’s proposed budget for next school year, when adjusted for inflation, is less money than the crisis budget K-12 school districts are facing now; it will mean an even shorter school year and larger class sizes over the next two years.

Oregon currently has the third largest class size in the nation and over the past few years, we’ve seen high school class sizes increase by nearly 30 percent. It’s not unusual to have 60 kids or more in class in Oregon high schools. Wonder if that has anything to do with graduate rates?

 (At the same time, the amount the state is giving away in tax breaks has grown by billions of dollars—28% just since 2009. That is money being drained away from our schools, senior healthcare, and public safety.)

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“Most Inappropriate Reaction”

For us in Oregon, the tragic events in Connecticut last Friday were unfathomable, especially as it came on the heels of the local tragedy in Clackamas. We join the rest of the country in mourning all of the victims, and our hearts go out to all of the families whose lives have been changed forever.
 
It’s also impossible for us to ignore some of the worst responses that have come from some politicians looking to score points in the wake of the tragedy. Unfortunately, one of the worst reactions has come from right here in Oregon. 
 
Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) created a national outcry when he sent an email to school superintendents saying that the tragedy was “another heart breaking failure of school personnel to ensure the protection of innocent children and adults.” 
 
Just hours after educators in Sandy Hook gave up their lives to save their kids, Rep. Richardson was calling their heroic actions a “failure… to ensure the protection of innocent children.” 
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The visual costs of Higher Education

A few months ago, we examined the shifting costs of higher education in Oregon and around the nation. While we love to geek out on data and analysis, we are limited in the way we present the information -- namely with graphs and charts that come standard on Excel.

But check out this stunning visual representation of the crisis, as presented by The Week:

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Governor’s Budget Ignores Out-Of-Control Tax Breaks

In his recommended budget, the Governor has unfortunately ignored the resounding results of election that wrapped just a few weeks ago, and has missed an opportunity to provide real money for schools and critical services by closing big tax loopholes for large corporations and the rich.

The Governor's budget continues the status quo of giving away tax dollars through runaway tax breaks. The State of Oregon currently gives away $32 billion in tax breaks every two years--an increase of $3.4 billion (12%) in just the past few years. 

Reining in these out-of-control tax breaks—particularly for large corporations and the wealthy—could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Oregon’s basic priorities: Our schools, senior care, and the basic services that keep our communities safe and healthy.

In the election that ended just three weeks ago, voters in Oregon and the rest of the nation weighed in loudly about how they expect elected leaders to protect priority services.

 

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Underfunded Classrooms: Sue Stinson

The latest in our video series, higlighting the Crisis of Oregon's K-12 Schools.

"What you're seeing now is a great demand for quality education, with third-rate funding."

Sue Stinson, retired teacher, muses on how things have changed over the years.

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Overcrowded Classrooms (video)

We've been speaking with parents, teachers, students, and other education advocates all around the state to find out how things really look in Oregon's K-12 classrooms.

Here is the latest in our video series, from High School History teacher (and dad) Steve Nims.

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The real impact of Measure 5

There's been a resurgence of interest in the effects of Measure 5, the property tax cap measure that is widely credited with defunding Oregon's schools.

Measure 5 was passed in 1990, and was proposed as a property tax cap and limit. Proponents of this measure failed to mention that the policy would also severely cut public school funding while shifting decisions from local officials to state lawmakers. With limited funds and far-removed politicians making decisions how to use them, school funding has faced troubling trends in the ensuing decades.

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Underfunded classrooms: A parent's perspective

We're continuing our video series featuring conversations with teachers, parents, and advocates around the state who are speaking out about the K-12 classroom crisis around the state. 

Here's Otto Schell, from the Oregon PTA, on the parent perspective.

Got a minute? It's worth it:

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Consequence of overcrowded and underfunded schools: Another side to the story

We talk a lot about the impacts of overcrowded classrooms on students, who are getting less and less of their teachers’ attention and who, at times, feel hopeless.

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