Argument Against Passage of Beaverton Schools Local Option Levy
Argument in Opposition to Measure 34-204 Beaverton Schools Local Option Levy Preventing Classroom, Teaching Position Cuts
By Gary Haycox
Well, here we are once again faced with a difficult decision, our education system is in crisis, impacting our schools by cutting funding, translating into teacher headcount cuts and increased class size. We have constant reminders of the PERS problem, its’ structural flaws and effect on school budgets. PERS is like a black hole sucking every dollar into the gravity well. Our legislature and Governor, well aware of the impact on current operating budgets for education and other services, had the chance to take bold and aggressive steps to mitigate these effects. But, instead they chose the “politically safe” route and passed the PERS-lite bill. PERS-lite does provide for some relief, but only to stem some of the budgetary “bleeding”, however PERS-lite does nothing longterm other than to “kick the can” down the road; considering the “black hole” metaphor,it just adds more mass to the dollar sucking vortex.
The Beaverton School Districts’ response to the current funding cuts is to ask the taxpayers for an increase in property taxes via a special election to provide more funding into the Beaverton K-12 schools. Unfortunately for the voters the Beaverton Option Levy, Measure 34-204, does not have an “Argument in Opposition” included within the voters’ pamphlet. The process for getting content into the pamphlet requires a submission within a 5-day window after becoming aware of a measure or initiative. Often the announcement goes unnoticed thus benefiting the campaign for the initiative; I will leave this issue to the voters to voice their concern to their election officials.
For this special election, and certainly for all of our elections, it is vitally important for the voters to be fully informed, “An informed voter is the best voter.” With this in mind it is important for the voters to have access to appropriate information, to understand the issues, concerns and alternatives assuring a balanced and effective (pro’s and con’s) decision. Intending to provide more information, I am providing an Argument in Opposition. Not in opposition to better schools or smaller class sizes; not in opposition to fully funded and happy teachers, but rather in opposition to the idea of throwing money at the funding problem without a full understanding of the budget. It is common sense to ask questions about how money is currently being spent? What are the priorities? What are the trade-offs, and what compromises are being made before making a decision to increase funding? Do we have a “leaking bucket” such that putting more into the bucket just continues to leak money out? Or do we ask or demand that the “leaks” are fixed before we put more money in? I believe it is the prudent and right thing to do is to ask the tough questions, consider effective solutions to mitigate existing problems and to implement known crisis management solutions. This process should be done before turning to the taxpayer for more funding. This may be painful in the short-term, but will make for better, more effective and sustainable long-term solutions.
When examining the Beaverton School District budget, which is 390 pages of budgetary complexity, one will find many areas in the budget which are questionable and makes one wonder, “hmm, there seems to be many areas of expense that seem out of line, or not aligned to reasonable benchmarks or not comparable to private sector standards.” The total BSD budget for 2012-1 is $466M of which $304M is targeted for the General Fund or the Operational budget (e.g. Instructional Budget). Beaverton has close to 40,000 students, so this translates into $11,600K per student in total. Understand, according to The Cascade Policy Institute report, Oregon’s Real Education Spending has Quadrupled Since 1957
1. From the report, “using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Consumer
Price Index Calculator, Oregon’s per student spending in 1957 dollars is the equivalent of about $2,919 in today’s dollars.” So, considering this a 400% increase in per student funding, are we really getting our money’s worth? Why should we throw even more money at the educational system without a very critical review of our current practices and ask the tough questions as to what can be done differently to make better use of our money and more importantly, How do we do a better job of educating our children? The private sector uses various methods for achieving continuous improvement through total quality management and Six Sigma processes, to stay competitive in the market place.
Private sector businesses use these processes to strive for improved efficiency and quality into their products and services. We need to call on this experience, from the outside, to utilize private sector best practices toward Education Reform. These best-known methods and management practices will provide efficacious long-term solutions and will help to get out from under these short-term crisis situations.
Additionally as fuel for thought, we have an education system that is often represented as a three-legged-stool, the legs being Students, Parents and Teachers. To date, all of these constituents have been asked to “pay their fair share” or provide “shared sacrifice” in dealing with the budget deficit. However, there is one group that seems to sidestep “shared sacrifice” contributions, and that group being the union. Beaverton has about 4,000 staff paying approximately $4M annually in union dues. I propose the union participate in a “shared sacrifice” contribution by making a magnanimous offer of a one year “dues holiday”. This would allow the money to be applied to fund up to 40 teachers thus relieving teacher-student ratio pressures and to reduce class size. Wouldn’t this be a welcome benefit by all community stakeholders? After all it is “for the children”.
In conclusion, before making a decision to throw additional money at a crisis, please demand more critical thinking and analysis through the lens of reform, and for long-term solutions to fix structural problems take priority over short-term Band-Aid approaches. Our children, grandchildren and posterity depend real solutions for education and budgetary reform; the “can kicking” and “Band-Aid” patches are only a façade covering up the problem(s), doing nothing but to continue the path of diminishing returns and outcome.
Father, Grandfather and concerned citizen
Like this post? Chip in $5 to AFP.