By Knute Buehler
For too many years, Oregon politicians have failed to do what is necessary to improve the quality and funding of our K-12 public schools. Good things are happening every day in classrooms across Oregon – with dedicated teachers, administrators and parents working together. But it is also undeniable that for too long, too many kids in too many schools have been left out and behind.
The unfortunate reality is that students in Oregon today face a menacing triple-threat: an ongoing crisis in high school graduation rates, a lingering crisis in academic quality and a growing crisis in classroom funding.
My number one priority as governor will be fixing Oregon’s broken public education system. None of us should accept as inevitable the current reality, which is failing thousands of kids every year. We need to challenge the status quo, restore high expectations and put students first. It is time to combine the best ideas from Republicans, Democrats and Independents so our schools and students can achieve their full potential. I will lead on education where Kate Brown has failed.
My ambitious goal for education in Oregon is to lead our schools from the bottom five in the nation to the top five in five years. The plan includes:
- Enhance classroom funding. Solving Oregon’s classroom funding crisis will require a combination of K-12 General Fund budget increases averaging 15 percent over four years, along with pension and health insurance reforms that could re-direct an additional $1.2 billion in new, performance-based classroom spending each year.
- Improve education standards and outcomes: Advancing Oregon schools from some of lowest performing in the nation to some of the highest will require state and local educators to focus on achieving a handful of critical, evidence-based proficiency standards. These standards, combined with enhanced resources and professional development opportunities for teachers and principals, are widely recognized as key ingredients for students graduating from high school on time and with the knowledge and skills needed to advance to a four-year college, a community college or the workplace.
- Restore the lost school year. Returning Oregon to the national standard of 180-day school year from the current, shortest in the nation, 165-day average for schools in Oregon. The current 165-day average translates into Oregon students attending one year less school than students in Washington State.
- Provide career and technical education: Fully funding Oregon’s under-funded career and technical education initiative approved by voters under Ballot Measure 98. Career and technical education is a proven approach to dropout prevention and prepares kids for further skills-based education, work or careers.
- Create a modern funding formula: Aligning desired education achievement outcomes with the process for how local school districts negotiate contracts and receive funds from the state.
These goals and outcomes are ambitious, but in such a dynamic and growing state we cannot afford to think small any longer. I am excited to engage educators, legislators from both parties, school advocates, parents and students from across the state to give every child in Oregon a better shot at a brighter future.