Sockeye Blog

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.

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.

But one of the unseen consequences is one that has extraordinarily long-lasting impacts on our Oregon schools. As it turns out, overcrowded classrooms don’t affect just the students who are currently squeezed into those classes, but also those still to come – because some of our best and experienced teachers are retiring early or switching careers. Some would-be excellent teachers are even choosing to forgo the profession entirely.

Everyone – everyone – wants good teachers for our children. But Oregon's teachers are put in situations where they have more students than names they can remember, more papers than they have time to read, and fewer planning periods to prep for their increasing class load.

Just one example of Oregon's predicament:

Overcrowded Classrooms, High Desert Middle School from Our Oregon on Vimeo.

Oregon is losing some of its most experienced teachers because of cuts to our K-12 schools. And with that, Oregon loses years of experience and dedication from the classroom experience – not just now, but for years to come.

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Let’s face it, the news today can be downright depressing. It’s important to remember that things aren’t all bad — in fact, there are some really great things happening around us all the time. Introducing, The Bright Side of Life!

Happy Friday, folks! Here are a few stories that brightened things up around the OO office this week:

Let’s face it, the news today can be downright depressing. It’s important to remember that things aren’t all bad — in fact, there are some really great things happening around us all the time. Introducing, The Bright Side of Life!

Happy Friday, folks! Here are a few stories that brightened things up around the OO office this week:

Great news for all of us to share with our bosses: We only look at pictures of cute cats online for the good of the company! So allow us to help you with your productivity by sharing:

Hey! Portland's Waterfront Park was recognized as one of America's 10 Great Public Spaces this year by the American Planning Association. Oregon Pride!

And get ready to crunch: it's reportedly one of the best apple seasons in the Pacific Northwest in decades!

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Don't you just hate it when right-wing multi-billionaire brothers sweep into your state and try to buy your election?

Don't you just hate it when right-wing multi-billionaire brothers sweep into your state and try to buy your election?

 
These contributions were posted just days ago, so it's unclear what the remaining few weeks of the election will reveal.

But whether the Koch brothers will continue contributing money into Oregon or not, keep in mind that that was nearly $50,000 in just five days. In a state Oregon's size, that is bound to make an impact.

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National headlines are linking voter fraud to the Republican National Committee and their operative, Nathan Sproul. Apparently, Sproul has been breaking the law, yet again, by using illegal tactics to pay his crew and encouraging them to register only Republican voters (see below) and/or to destroy Democratic voter registration cards.

National headlines are linking voter fraud to the Republican National Committee and their operative, Nathan Sproul. Apparently, Sproul has been breaking the law, yet again, by using illegal tactics to pay his crew and encouraging them to register only Republican voters (see below) and/or to destroy Democratic voter registration cards.

Ummm, sound familiar?

From the Oregonian in 2004,

Last week, in a story first reported by KGW-TV, a canvasser in Oregon said that he'd been instructed to accept registrations only from Republicans, and that he "might" destroy those from Democrats. According to The Associated Press, Douglas County Clerk Barbara Nielsen reported complaints that registration workers for Sproul & Associates had urged new voters to register as Republicans, saying that otherwise the workers wouldn't get paid, and suggesting forms from Democrats might not make it to the clerk's office.

When Sproul’s practices became known in Oregon, the Oregon Attorney General’s office began swift investigation of Sproul and his team. In the end, Sproul ended up moving shop out of Oregon, and Oregon’s Legislature passed new, stricter laws to prevent fraud in Oregon.  Soon after, other states where Sproul was working (including Nevada) began also investigating Sproul’s work.

So, that makes it even more interesting that it’s just last week that the Republican National Committee has acted on the most recent allegations against Sproul. The Republican National Committee has not only fired Sproul, but is also filing its own election claim against the company after bad publicity arose in the press.

But it’s not as though the RNC wasn’t already familiar with Sproul’s history when they hired him.

From the LA Times:  “When Sproul was tapped by the RNC to do field work this year, officials requested that he set up a new firm to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations, Sproul told The Times. The firm was set up at a Virginia address, and Sproul does not show up on the corporate paperwork.”

The fact of the matter is that Sproul is a GOP operative with a long history of trying to corrupt the voter registration system for partisan benefits. He has shown he will act ruthlessly to do anything it takes to confuse voters and deny them their to vote.

Republicans have been hiring a company previously known for voter fraud, all while crying the need to prevent it. They want to require voter IDs from those who are least likely to have it (but most likely to vote for progressive candidates and issues) and yet the only guy that they know is involved in voter fraud won a big contract from them.

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Quiz time!

Question: What was Economist and Oregon State University Professor Patrick Emerson talking about when he wrote the following:

“This is exceptionally poor [use of statistics]. It is intellectually dishonest or lazy or both and does not befit a board that wishes to be taken seriously.”

Quiz time!

Question: What was Economist and Oregon State University Professor Patrick Emerson talking about when he wrote the following:

“This is exceptionally poor [use of statistics]. It is intellectually dishonest or lazy or both and does not befit a board that wishes to be taken seriously.”

Answer: The Oregonian’s weekend editorial, doubling down on their argument that the state should cut taxes for the wealthy. The editorial board is pushing for a cut to the capital gains tax rate, which would mean that investors would pay a lower (perhaps much lower) tax rate than people who work for their income. 

Now, it should come as no surprise that we vehemently disagree with the bad policy promotion.

But as the old saying goes, the Oregonian is entitled to their own opinion--not their own facts. And here, the paper has wildly bent the truth in order to support their political agenda.

As Emerson wrote of the editorial’s tactics:

One of the most familiar boogymen of anti-tax activists is the tax refugee... Unfortunately for them the evidence is not on their side.    Yet, despite this the scare tactic never seems to go away.  And so it was with considerable dismay that I see that The Oregonian editorial board has decided to use the scare tactic and cite a totally meaningless statistic to back it up…  This is exceptionally poor. It is intellectually dishonest or lazy or both and does not befit a board that wishes to be taken seriously.

What Emerson is lamenting is the “data” the Oregonian used to promote their bad tax policy. The paper examined numbers provided by the Oregon Department of Revenue from 2007 and found that 297 Oregonians with capital gains income moved to Clark County, Washington. ‘Behold,’ they triumphed, ‘proof that our tax system is driving away wealthy people!’

Hmmm. Does this sound familiar? Maybe you remember when KGW attempted to make a similar claim in 2011. As it turned out, though, those Oregonians who moved out of state to avoid taxes that KGW reported on were simply Washingtonians updating their driver's licenses in response to a WA state crack-down on residents who were claiming out-of-state licenses in order to avoid paying WA’s sales tax. The misleading report came from the fact that KGW never checked with any of the residents who had moved--and their only "sources" were anti-tax activists. The station had to issue an embarrassed apology after outcry from their viewers.

The Oregonian uses a different set of data and from a different year. But it appears that they used the same follow-up checks as KGW – which is to say, none. Had the Oregonian talked to a single individual (whom they refer to as “tax emigrants”) and found anyone who claimed they moved their home and established residency in a different state all so they could sell their stocks without paying income tax on it? You can bet we’d be reading all about it.

But in reality, the only thing that the data shows is that there are Oregonians who have accrued capital gains who move to Washington’s Clark County. And we can agree with that! Some have moved to Washington during that time period. Some have also moved to New York. And to Texas. And to anywhere else in the country that people like moving.

What the paper failed to acknowledge is that many have moved into Oregon at this same time – even though an article was published in the Oregonian just days earlier discussing exactly that! Jeff Mapes reported on Californians who are moving into Oregon and bringing their wealth with them (to the tune of more than $3.8 billion in aggregate income in the past decade).

Further, according to Forbes’ immigration map, there was actually more inbound income to Multnomah County, Oregon than there was to Clark County, Washington in 2010. That means that for as much wealth as any Oregonian took with them to Clark County, more wealth moved into Multnomah County alone.

There’s certainly plenty more to say about the shoddy journalism that ‘informed’ this weekend’s Oregonian editorial, but I’ll go on and wrap with Economist Emerson’s concise points from his Oregon Economics Blog:

First, the only statistic that makes any sense to use here is the net movement of people with capital gains income (not to mention knowing the real reason these folks moved rather than inferring it is all about capital gains taxes).  Second, what evidence is there that this is hurting Oregon business? If I know a promising start up in Portland, the fact that I live in Vancouver will prevent me from investing?  This seems patently absurd.  Third, once again remember that this capital gains is taxed when the asset is cashed out and is turned into income - to be, presumably, spent.  Living in Washington is expensive in terms of consumption taxes and when that capital gains income is spent it is taxed in Vancouver at a rate of 8.4%.

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Hundreds of Oregonians gathered to rally in Grant Park at the end of September to get in the spirit of Back to School month.

But they weren't celebrating. They were instead speaking up about the harmful impacts of state K-12 budget cuts, as local schools are forced to lay off teachers, expand class sizes, and limit class offerings.

Hundreds of Oregonians gathered to rally in Grant Park at the end of September to get in the spirit of Back to School month.

But they weren't celebrating. They were instead speaking up about the harmful impacts of state K-12 budget cuts, as local schools are forced to lay off teachers, expand class sizes, and limit class offerings.

The video here is a bit of a rally recap, highlighting the fun and festivities of such a big gathering; but it also compiles the rally speeches into one clean, simple, unified statement: We have a crisis. We have needs. We have a choice.

Check it out:

You can also visit the Defend Oregon page for more info about the measures and why Oregonians should vote NO on 84 and YES on 85.

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Let’s face it, the news today can be downright depressing. It’s important to remember that things aren’t all bad — in fact, there are some really great things happening around us all the time. Introducing, The Bright Side of Life!

Happy Friday, folks! Here are a few stories that brightened things up around the OO office this week:

Let’s face it, the news today can be downright depressing. It’s important to remember that things aren’t all bad — in fact, there are some really great things happening around us all the time. Introducing, The Bright Side of Life!

Happy Friday, folks! Here are a few stories that brightened things up around the OO office this week:

Michael Taeu already thought he was doing a good deed, when he went out to canvass on behalf of the candidate he supports. But it was when he stumbled into a bad scenario that his hero quotient really sky-rocketed.

Oregon Pride: Bend citizens gather to welcome home local celebrity, Olympic Gold winner Ashton Eaton.

Cat story fans: you're gonna love this one.

And well done, Deschutes Brewery -- world's best beer!

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We've been talking to folks all over the state about K-12 education. (See some of our previous videos here  and here.)

Here's our latest video from Margarett Peoples, Special Education teacher. She spoke to us about how K-12 budget cuts have directly impacted the programs and services that are so vital to her field of education and how it has impacted her ability to do her job.

Check it out:

We've been talking to folks all over the state about K-12 education. (See some of our previous videos here  and here.)

Here's our latest video from Margarett Peoples, Special Education teacher. She spoke to us about how K-12 budget cuts have directly impacted the programs and services that are so vital to her field of education and how it has impacted her ability to do her job.

Check it out:

Peoples shared some specific examples later. For many students, Peoples said, vocational training was a way to ensure that students felt as though they had an opportunity to be productive members of the community after finishing school. For others, the offerings were the only reason they were inspired to stay in school. Yet all vocational specialists were cut from her district's program offerings a number of years ago after the state began cutting education funding.

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Oregon college students are heading back in to campus for fall semester classes this week. These students are returning to friends, classes, dining hall food. Oh, and mounting debt.

A few weeks ago, we explored the crushing school debt facing America’s students. The main cause of the growth in student debt was easy to pinpoint: tuition increases.

But what we didn’t know at the time was why those rates have increased so dramatically.

Oregon college students are heading back in to campus for fall semester classes this week. These students are returning to friends, classes, dining hall food. Oh, and mounting debt.

A few weeks ago, we explored the crushing school debt facing America’s students. The main cause of the growth in student debt was easy to pinpoint: tuition increases.

But what we didn’t know at the time was why those rates have increased so dramatically.

Since then, we’ve spent a good chunk of time on the phone with the Oregon University System, sifting through financial analysis and academic reports, and conducting our own analysis. Here’s what we found out:

Total costs to students have increased far beyond the rate of inflation…

 

… yet OUS operational costs have stayed pretty much right on par with inflation: 


Graph Source: OUS Office of Finance and Administration

So if operation costs aren’t to blame for rising tuition rates, what’s the cause of tuition increases (and, by extension, student debt)?

As it turns out, the mystery lies within Oregon state investment.

State spending on higher ed has been sporadic since the 90s, but recent trends point to clear findings: In the last five years, Oregon has dramatically cut funding. In fact, since 2007, the Oregon Legislature has decreased investment to the tune of a 15% drop in state spending per student.


 
(In fact, accounting for inflation, we now spend less per student than we did 15 years ago.)

I know what you’re thinking now: tough economy, tough choices.

But Oregon’s record on higher ed can’t be explained just on the recession caused by Wall Street greed. Because relative to the rest of the nation, Oregon actually now spends less on higher ed than nearly every other state.

In 2010, the national average for higher education was 11.8% of state budget spending. In Oregon, we spent 5.8%, the third smallest percentage of state budgets in the nation. Only Massachusetts and Rhode Island (both of which have significant private universities and endowments) invested less in their state public universities.


 

What does this all mean?

It’s hard to say with certainty what this spells out for future generations, but we know two pretty basic things:

1. Debt is up…


 
… which means middle class families are hurting, individuals have less money to spend back into the economy, and we’re losing an entire generation of students to chasing back debt.

2. And motivation is down, as questions of whether college is “worth it” abound. Many young people have become alarmed by the figures, and some have decided that higher ed is not a good investment in the current environment. (Though plenty of studies show that, in the long run, college is still a smart choice.)

It’s hard to know how these trends will change over time but, at least for now, things look troubling as fewer and fewer students continue their education. (Because, try as they may, our K-12 schools are struggling with state budget cuts as well.)

It boils down to a simple choice: are we willing to continue a pattern of less and less investment in our state education systems? Or do we want to turn things around now and plan for the future?

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Here are some photos from this Friday's Rally to Restore School Funding at Grant Park in NE Portland. For more, see the Defend Oregon Facebook page!

Here are some photos from this Friday's Rally to Restore School Funding at Grant Park in NE Portland. For more, see the Defend Oregon Facebook page!

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