Sockeye Blog

Our Oregon's Sockeye Blog has gotten bigger, better, and bolder. Check it out!

You can now find The Sockeye blog at: www.thesockeye.org

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Our Oregon's Sockeye Blog has gotten bigger, better, and bolder. Check it out!

You can now find The Sockeye blog at: www.thesockeye.org

Thank you for updating your bookmarks.

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We are so excited to announce that we will be joined by Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, to discuss the campaign to bring marriage equality to Oregon, on our next Inside Source show on Wednesday, June 26 at 3pm.

Go here to sign up: http://bit.ly/16eSEdY

We are so excited to announce that we will be joined by Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, to discuss the campaign to bring marriage equality to Oregon, on our next Inside Source show on Wednesday, June 26 at 3pm.

Go here to sign up: http://bit.ly/16eSEdY

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On April 26, we filed numerous initiative petitions with the Secretary of State’s office for the 2014 election.

These initiatives would raise hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $1 billion in funding for Oregon’s classrooms and critical services by raising tax rates on large corporations. Most of these corporations are headquartered out of state, but make a lot of money here—and are essentially getting a free ride.

Find out more about these potential initiatives here.

On April 26, we filed numerous initiative petitions with the Secretary of State’s office for the 2014 election.

These initiatives would raise hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $1 billion in funding for Oregon’s classrooms and critical services by raising tax rates on large corporations. Most of these corporations are headquartered out of state, but make a lot of money here—and are essentially getting a free ride.

Find out more about these potential initiatives here.

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On Wednesday, May 1, we are delighted to have U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley join us on the Inside Source, the onlive live and online show that connects you to Oregon's political insiders. We hope you'll join the conversation.

Visit The Sockeye Blog to learn more and get signed up!

 

On Wednesday, May 1, we are delighted to have U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley join us on the Inside Source, the onlive live and online show that connects you to Oregon's political insiders. We hope you'll join the conversation.

Visit The Sockeye Blog to learn more and get signed up!

 

 

 

The Inside Source with Senator Merkley

Sign up here to join us for the next Inside Source with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley!

The next Inside Source is bringing you live and online access to questions and conversations from Senator Merkley. The show will get started on Wednesday, May 1 at 2:30pm. Sign up here for login information.

 
 
 
 

 
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It's impossible to ignore. Our country is facing a crisis of wealth disparity that has only gotten much, much worse since the recession. Put simply, the ultra-rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting poorer.

And some of the most tragic victims of this crisis are Oregon's children.

Read more at The Sockeye blog.

It's impossible to ignore. Our country is facing a crisis of wealth disparity that has only gotten much, much worse since the recession. Put simply, the ultra-rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting poorer.

And some of the most tragic victims of this crisis are Oregon's children.

Read more at The Sockeye blog.

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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.

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.

Even while Oregonians are facing overcrowded classrooms, shorter school years, and threats to basic healthcare for seniors, tax breaks have grown at an astronomical rate. While we've pointed to the unchecked growth before, the latest numbers were still more shocking -- as we learned that tax breaks have grown even faster than originally anticipated.

The New Numbers

After the Governor announced his recommended 2013-15 budget, we were interested in learning what new trends the figures might show. We plotted out proposed spending and revisited reports from the last budget cycle (to update our figures from 'approved spending' to 'actual spending.') 

At first glance, the Governor's proposed budget for the next two years may look like more money for K-12 schools. But when adjusted for inflation, it turns out that the proposed budget actually sends less funds to Oregon classrooms than the previous biennium.

In the meantime, you're not wrong to be completely distracted by the blue line on that chart instead of the red one.

Not only are tax expenditures still growing at a faster rate than school spending, but Oregon's tax expenditures cost significantly more last biennium than the state had budgeted.

When we first did our research during the last budget period, tax breaks were expected to cost the state $31 billion, a 12% increase from the biennium prior. Once the state collected data on how much those tax expenditures actually cost the state, it turns out the 2011-13 biennium tax breaks actually cost more than $33 billion, a total increase of more than 18% from the prior biennium.

An additional $2 billion -- poof, gone.

And as the Oregonian discovered, many of these tax breaks disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Oregonians.

These findings point to the deepening contrast of the choice we face. Will we move to rein in tax breaks for corporations and the richest Oregonians, or will we allow further budget cuts that hurt our students and middle-class families?

Fortunately, as session begins this week, some legislators appear ready to tackle the issue. House Speaker Tina Kotek told the Oregonian: "We see [addressing tax breaks] as one of the critical pieces of achieving a balanced budget and finding the dollars necessary for our schools... I think a lot of Oregonians support that."

We have an opportunity to address the budget crisis, and Oregonians are relying on legislators to make a decision about our priorities. Because whether they act to reform Oregon's tax giveaways or not, they will have made a choice that significant impacts Oregon's schools and other important programs.

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The conservative bias at the Oregonian isn’t exactly a secret. But one of their most frequent tactics goes mostly ignored: Writing headlines to frame stories in a way that pushes their ideological agenda.

Some obvious examples from recent history:

•    The “Obama keeps job” front page headline the day after the November election

•    “Lower expectations for Obama 2.0” on the front page the day of Obama’s second inauguration (also the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday), topping a couple of wire stories about conservative opposition to the President’s agenda

•    The “State asks to pry info from Mannix groups” headline on a story about the Oregon Department of Justice investigating Kevin Mannix’s alleged use of a veteran’s charity to funnel funds to his political campaigns.

Their latest headline twisting shenanigan: “Uncle Sam blamed for fourth-quarter slowdown.”

The conservative bias at the Oregonian isn’t exactly a secret. But one of their most frequent tactics goes mostly ignored: Writing headlines to frame stories in a way that pushes their ideological agenda.

Some obvious examples from recent history:

•    The “Obama keeps job” front page headline the day after the November election

•    “Lower expectations for Obama 2.0” on the front page the day of Obama’s second inauguration (also the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday), topping a couple of wire stories about conservative opposition to the President’s agenda

•    The “State asks to pry info from Mannix groups” headline on a story about the Oregon Department of Justice investigating Kevin Mannix’s alleged use of a veteran’s charity to funnel funds to his political campaigns.

Their latest headline twisting shenanigan: “Uncle Sam blamed for fourth-quarter slowdown.”

It’s the headline on an Associated Press wire story about how the economy unexpectedly slowed late last year due to steep cuts to government spending, particularly in the defense sector. These cuts didn’t happen because of “Uncle Sam,” but because of congressional Republicans’ single-minded dedication to cutting taxes and slashing important programs.

The Oregonian could have said “Govt. cuts leads to economic slowdown” or “GOP-backed cuts hit economy.” They could have just used the straightforward news headline that came stock with the wire piece. Instead, they twisted the headline to push their anti-government (and anti-Democratic) agenda, putting them outside the mainstream of other newspapers. Even FoxNews.com handled the story without resorting to anti-Obama nonsense.

Here’s how other newspapers and outlets headlined the story:

The Columbus Dispatch: "4th-quarter dip shows politics’ effect on economy"

MySanAntonio.com: "Economy slowed in final quarter"

Tulsa World: "U.S. economy shifted into reverse in late 2012"

Detroit Free Press: "U.S. economy shrank unexpectedly in 4Q"

FoxNews.com: "US economy shrinks 0.1 pct., first time in 3 ½ years; deep cut in defense spending key factor"

The Oregonian: Even more out of touch with reality than Fox News.

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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.)

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.)

 

 
The solution for improving graduation rates isn’t rocket science. Students (and teachers) need smaller class sizes and more individual instruction. There needs to be direct engagement with parents. Schools need programs that keep students engaged, including arts education and career and technical training. And struggling students need  the additional support and attention they need to succeed.

All of those things require adequate funding.
 
This isn’t a theoretical conversation. There are at least two real-world examples from the latest report that illustrate what can be done with more money into classrooms:
 
Hillsboro’s Century High School posted one of the best graduation numbers in the state—85 percent for the class of 2012. How’d they do it?

Century leaders have spent years refining the formula they've developed to keep tabs on students who struggle and get them back on track.
 
The Care Team pulls together counselors, teachers, social workers, parents and others to assist individual students who are on the verge of dropping out. An alternative education teacher helps catch kids who fall behind in credits. The English as a Second Language Department reviews students weekly and reassigns classroom aides to classes where kids are struggling the most.
 
In addition, school leaders have combed research and statistics on a national level, searching for tidbits that help them spot red flags among students. A Chicago Public Schools study showed freshmen who earned five credits or less were more likely to drop out. Staff visited schools in Washington state to learn how to provide students extra support during the school day instead of making it optional after school, said Century Principal Ted Zehr.

These efforts require a real investment of funds. Century has also taken part in the federal Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, financed primarily by grants, that allows teachers, counselors, and administrators to provide individual attention to so-called “underachieving students.”

Portland’s Madison High School increased its grad rate by 7.5 points to 71 percent, a significant improvement in a short amount of time. Just two short years ago, Madison had one of the worst four-year graduation rates in the state. How’d they do it? Money.

Madison's poor results and its high poverty rate netted it a $3.5 million, three-year federal turnaround grant in 2011. That enabled the school to hire instructional coaches and a social service coordinator and to pay teachers to work after school, on weekends and in the summer to plan curriculum, get more training and help struggling students, Callin said.
 
The result has been better teaching techniques, closer teacher-student relationships, greater faculty collaboration and more social services for students and families -- and all those help keep students in school and on track to a diploma, she said.

So while elected leaders are wringing their hands about how to improve Oregon’s K-12 schools, it’s important for us all to remember one thing: You get what you pay for.

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Over the weekend, the Oregonian ran what they surely believed was a hard-hitting expose on union spending on political campaigns. What the story boiled down to was this: Labor unions spend money on political campaigns, just like other groups, and in Oregon they win elections because they’re more in touch with what a majority of Oregonians want.

But buried in the story, almost as an aside, is this little nugget: “Without the union support, the Democrats would have had a hard time staying financially competitive with Republicans, who slightly outraised them thanks to strong support from business interests.”

Catch that? Republicans outspent Democrats, and they did it thanks to big campaign contributions from the corporate lobby. And yet, they still lost seats in the legislature, giving Democrats a strong majority.

So where’s the big front page story about campaign spending by business interests? Why isn’t the headline, “Despite outspending everyone else, Oregon’s business lobby rebuffed by voters”?

The bottom line is that the progressive movement in Oregon is strong because it reflects the values and priorities of a majority of Oregonians. The corporate lobby and their preferred political party continue to lose for one simple reason: Their agenda and the Oregonian’s editorial positions (tax cuts for big corporations and the rich, cutting environmental regulations, budget cuts that lead to big class sizes, etc.) are completely at odds with voters.

Oregon’s progressive community—including labor unions, educators, environmentalists, women’s health advocates, the GLBT community, small businesses, and many others—is strong because we work together toward a common goal: Protecting the priorities that make Oregon great. That’s the real story.

Over the weekend, the Oregonian ran what they surely believed was a hard-hitting expose on union spending on political campaigns. What the story boiled down to was this: Labor unions spend money on political campaigns, just like other groups, and in Oregon they win elections because they’re more in touch with what a majority of Oregonians want.

But buried in the story, almost as an aside, is this little nugget: “Without the union support, the Democrats would have had a hard time staying financially competitive with Republicans, who slightly outraised them thanks to strong support from business interests.”

Catch that? Republicans outspent Democrats, and they did it thanks to big campaign contributions from the corporate lobby. And yet, they still lost seats in the legislature, giving Democrats a strong majority.

So where’s the big front page story about campaign spending by business interests? Why isn’t the headline, “Despite outspending everyone else, Oregon’s business lobby rebuffed by voters”?

The bottom line is that the progressive movement in Oregon is strong because it reflects the values and priorities of a majority of Oregonians. The corporate lobby and their preferred political party continue to lose for one simple reason: Their agenda and the Oregonian’s editorial positions (tax cuts for big corporations and the rich, cutting environmental regulations, budget cuts that lead to big class sizes, etc.) are completely at odds with voters.

Oregon’s progressive community—including labor unions, educators, environmentalists, women’s health advocates, the GLBT community, small businesses, and many others—is strong because we work together toward a common goal: Protecting the priorities that make Oregon great. That’s the real story.

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