Making Sense of Economic “Information”

Here’s a post from Mark Hurst’s blog, Good Experience, that discusses what we need to make sense out of economic information, i.e., “plain talk.”

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What’s High School For, Anyway?

During this deep and prolonged recession here in Oregon, we get to thinking about the costs of public education, especially secondary public education. (If you don’t think about it, that’s okay…I do, and I have to admit to a lot of ambivalence.)

Yesterday, the Orange County Register published an online artlcle about the differing expectations of teachers, parents, and students with regard to exactly what we should expect from a high school education.

This might be a bit of an overgeneralization, but I think of high school as both a beginning, and for many, an ending of formal education. Logically, a high school education needs to prepare students for life after high school, whether it’s joining the workforce and raising a happy little family, or going on to college and then joining the workforce and raising a happy little family.

In short, preparing students to be prepared for anything.

What do you think high school is for?

Save the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library

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Today a fly fishing friend of mine who volunteered at the OHS museum and research library from 1979 to 2000 clued me in that the research library may be shut down for lack of funding. That would be a disaster.

Please visit the petition site to weigh in on the matter, and then let everyone you know about the opportunity to keep Oregon history available.

This resource must remain accessible to keep Oregon history alive. One of the first steps to obliterating a culture or a people is to cut them off from their history. We can’t have that happening in Oregon. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Anyone else have any ideas on how to get the word around? Please comment here and I’ll do my share to spread the word.

As of tonight, only 20 people had signed the online petition. Surely more of us must care.

Board Takes Official Position on Four Measures of Significance to Oregon Education

Oregon is the state of initiatives. I think Iowa was the first state to use popular influence to get measures on the ballot, but the initiative phenomenon became known long ago as The Oregon System.

To our embarrassment, The Oregon System has become a source of riches for Bill Sizemore, a convicted felon (thanks in large part to the Oregon Education Association) who has made a business of pimping initiatives and gathering signatures for whomever is willing to pay him. Sizemore was recently in the news for siphoning funds for personal use from a foundation he controls.

The three initiatives we oppose are Sizemore’s. Some of them, people here believe, are attempted revenge against teachers who belong to the union (OEA) that helped nail his pitiful butt to the judicial wall.

It’s not often that I can speak for the entire Board, but this is one of those times, because we voted this way in an official meeting that was attached to our work session on Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

Of the many measures that will appear on the November ballot (Oregon), four, in the opinion of the Hillsboro School District’s Board of Directors, merit not only our attention, but our active participation to defeat three of them, and pass the fourth.

The initiative we support is Measure 56, which calls for the restoration of the simple majority voting requirement.

The three we oppose are Measures 58 (prohibition of teaching public school students in language other than English for more than 1-2 years); 59 (proposing full federal income tax deductibility from Oregon tax liability); and 60 (creating a state-wide teacher merit pay mandate).

Here are our resolutions in measure numerical order:

Measure 56:

WHEREAS, the 2007 Oregon Legislature adopted HJR 15, which refers a constitutional amendment proposal to Oregon voters at the November 4, 2008 General Election that would modify a portion of the double-majority requirement, restoring simple majority voting; and

WHEREAS, under the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement, to get voter approval of a finance measure, 50 percent of all registered voters must vote, along with “50 percent plus one vote”, with the exception of General Elections in even-numbered years; and

WHEREAS, this requirement places more election power in the hands of citizens who do not vote, rather than those who have decided to exercise this right; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement has resulted in many jurisdictions crowding the even-numbered General Election ballots with many competing taxing interests; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double majority’ requirement has resulted in the failure of several finance measures, despite the measures receiving a majority “yes” vote; and

WHEREAS, the 2007 Legislature created a very workable compromise, restoring the simple majority voting requirement for local bond and levy measures on all November and May ballots;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors support the Oregon Legislature’s passage of HJR 15 to restore the simple majority voting requirement to all May and November elections.

Measure 58:

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 and its resulting ballot measure would establish a statewide policy that English is the “language of opportunity” and mandate that non-English speaking students shall be immersed in English so they can be mainstreamed as quickly as possible; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 proposes to place non-English speaking students in English immersion classes for state-specified, limited time periods based on grade level (a maximum of 1 year for K-4 students; 1.5 years for grades 5-8; and 2 years for grades 9-12); and

WHEREAS, current, district-specified courses being taught to assist non-English speaking students who are unable to benefit from classes taught in English would effectively be eliminated,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District Board of Directors strongly opposes Ballot Measure 58 because it severely reduces our authority and ability to meet the unique needs of our students w2ho must learn English – while also learning academic skills.

Measure 59:

WHEREAS, K-12 public education receives the majority of its funding through a direct appropriation from the state legislature in the form of the State School Fund, generally comprising over 40% of the total state general fund; and

WHEREAS, the state relies on personal income taxes for almost 90% of all state revenues, making public services, including public education, highly sensitive to any changes in personal income tax collections; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 59 proposes to increase the amount of federal income taxes paid that can be deducted from an individual taxpayer’s Oregon taxable income from a limit of about $5,500 to the entire amount of federal taxes paid; and

WHEREAS, the changes proposed in Ballot Measure 59 are estimated by the Legislative Revenue Office to result in a $1.244 billion loss of state revenue in the 2009-11 biennium and a $2.268 billion reduction in the 2011-13 biennium; and

WHEREAS, such a dramatic reduction and instability in state revenues would likely result in a direct reduction in revenues for public education.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors strongly opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 59 and its efforts to destabilize and dramatically reduce revenues available for public services.

Measure 60:

WHEREAS, Measure 60 would impose a statewide mandate requiring all school districts to institute a new teacher compensation program without regard to the existing local collective bargaining process; and

WHEREAS, the measure lacks realistic and comprehensible definitions and clarifications that would enable local boards to thoroughly understand and effectively implement such a statewide mandate; and

WHEREAS, the measure would likely result in discouraging collaboration among teams of teachers in schools and instead foster competition for highest test scores; and

WHEREAS, said competition for high test scores would reduce the quality of Hillsboro’s education offerings because an emphasis on testing and testing rehearsal leaves less time for higher level curriculum exploration, and

WHEREAS, the official state fiscal impact committee has estimated that Measure 60 would require additional spending of between $30 million and $72 million statewide in the first year and between $30 million and $60 million statewide in subsequent years without raising additional revenues to compensate local districts.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 60 and its effort to implement an unfunded statewide mandate overhauling the existing local teacher compensation system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors urges voters to oppose Ballot Measure 60, and that the Board of Directors will work to educate local voters about the negative impact this measure will have on the local control of public schools, employee relations with teachers, funding for the classroom, and, most importantly, the opportunity for students in the Hillsboro school district to enjoy the benefits of a world-class education.

If you got this far reading, let me know, cuz you deserve a high-five!

And think about it. Maybe pray for us here in Oregon. Not only do we have to cope with NCLB, but we have to deal with crooks like Sizemore and the dipsticks he represents! 😦