In the news: Teacher on K8s, state funding cuts

4:56 pm

In a letter to the editor in today’s Oregonian (not published online), Portland Public Schools eighth grade teacher Sheila Wilcox gets to the point about our state funding cuts and PPS’s “already underfunded experiment in K-8s”:

As a teacher in a K-8 school in Portland, I am extremely dismayed at the talk of more unstable funding for education. Already, I am teaching eighth grade in a portable classroom on my school’s playground.

The building is poorly insulated, and the heating system is inadequate. My students have next to no access to technology (our mobile lab will be used for testing for the rest of the year), no music, and our library is the worst I’ve seen in my 13 years with the district.

I have tried to speak with several district officials and have been put off or dismissed altogether. How sad that our already underfunded experiment in K-8s will be shortchanged this school year, once again.

The still unfinished K8 transition gives students less while costing us more (much like the rigid Gate’s style academies we seem stuck with, despite the model being repudiated by the Gates foundation). The district seems to have lost interest in K8s, distracted by both the budget and the coming unveiling of the high school plan.

Also in today’s paper, Betsy Hammond writes that Oregon is alone among states discussing a shortened school year (despite most states being in fiscal crisis). Oregon is unique for both its unstable education funding, and its unwillingness to protect education from such draconian cuts.

A national shame on our Democratic Party-controlled state house and governor for failing to avoid such immediate cuts, and, most importantly, to address the long-term inadequacy and volatility of our revenue model.

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Budget, K-8 Transistion, Media, Program cuts, Small Schools, State, Tax policy

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5 Responses

  1. Comment from Rita:

    Education funding is not the only budget line that is unstable in this state. Pretty much all funding is inescapably unpredictable given our ridiculous tax system. The one good thing that could potentially come out of this colossal mess is a complete overhaul to make the tax system functional, progressive, and rational.

    I’m not all that hopeful that it will happen, but this is the last best hope. If this meltdown doesn’t convince us to change our ways, nothing will.

    That said, I think we all need to be very actively communicating with our legislators to ensure that they start thinking big about reforms. Thus far, the suggestions I’ve heard from various groups all strike me as too little and too late. We’re not going to stop this perennial crisis mode with nickels and dimes. We need fundamental change and a thorough top to bottom redesign. A beer tax would be reasonable, but it’s chicken feed. We need a corporate tax that will ensure real cost sharing of essential services. We need to get rid of the ridiculous kicker. (There’s a reason why no other state in the union has one.) We need to either reverse Measure 5 or create an educational financing system that accounts for it and ensures adequate funding. We need equal taxation of income, regardless of whether it’s from work or investments. We need better enforcement of tax laws. And tax credits should be given only when there is a clear and demonstrable public benefit.

    What I’m hearing is proposals for “sensible” reform, which appears to mean just chipping away at the edges, the “low hanging fruit.” That’s not nearly good enough.

    The Dems have the majority they need to enact tax laws, but I see no evidence of the political will that it will require either from the legislature or the Governor. So we have to make them do it anyway. At minimum, I would like to see a task force appointed to design a complete overhaul.

    Our kids deserve nothing less.

  2. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    I’ll just cut and paste below the comments I left in the PPS Budget Survey comment space. Probably not a popular idea, but I believe it is what is necessary to force the legislature to do what Rita suggests.

    Continuing to accept Salem’s budget scraps and trying to make do will only fuel funding opponents who think schools can do with less. The only solution is to cut the school year. DO NOT make cuts to any programs! Only the drastic solution of cutting the school year will demonstrate to the public that schools can not take any more cuts. We need stable funding and we need it now! Cutting the school year is the ONLY cut that will be immediately visible to those Oregonians who do not currently have students in public schools (or work in public schools.) The Legislature and voters of the state of Oregon need to take bold and courageous steps now to revamp the entire way schools are funded and to make a serious commitment to adequate funding for all levels of education. The School Board needs to take dramatic action now to call attention to the state of school funding in Oregon.

  3. Comment from anon:

    I agree! We do need an overhaul of the tax system so we can pay for public education and other critical public services. Now is definitely the time to push our legislators to do this.

    The Oregon Center for Public Policy is doing good analysis on state budget issues. Sign up for their updates at

  4. Comment from howard:

    Ms. Wilcox would have made her K-8 school’s case more clear by naming the school and identifying the PPS officials she has been ignored by. The current biennium started 21 months ago with more adequate funding than usual leading up to the recent down tick. I strongly believe other PPS K-8s fared much better than Ms. Wilcox’s. PPS administrators and board should explain why this particular school was not accorded the necessary planning, funding and support in its reconfiguration,

  5. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Many, many K8s are suffering like this. The basic situation, except in schools that started out as middle schools, is this: not enough students to have adequate staffing, and middle schoolers stuck in contained classrooms with no electives.

    Not surprisingly, this impact is felt disproportionately by poor and minority students.

    Plainly put: with the K8 model we spend significantly more and give our students significantly less.

    There was no planning, and funding and support have been entirely inadequate. K8s that are “working” are the exception, based on conversations I’ve had with teachers, administrators and families across the district.