Another legislative session has ended, and Oregon’s K-12 students have once again been used as pawns to influence the political agendas of many special interest groups. K-12 education funding has been increased 11% this legislative session, but no real education reform will occur. This continual call for more and more money for Oregon’s K-12 educational system with miniscule to non-existent change or improvement is not acceptable.
In 2017, a public education review by WalletHub analyzed each state’s K-12 public schools in the areas of performance, funding, safety, class size, and instructor credentials. Oregon’s overall rank was 43 out of 51 (50 states including the District of Columbia). This ranking system is consistent with many others that rank Oregon’s public schools among the bottom 10 in the nation. Oregon has a poorly performing, unsafe and moderately costly K-12 public education system. This system fails far too many of our students and their families. We must do better.
I am the son of a retired Air Force sergeant/public school janitor and a homemaker. I was the recipient of great public education. I had excellent K-12 teachers, received world-class post-secondary education, and earned a B.S., Ph.D., and M.D. for very little financial cost. Everything that I have been able to contribute to life is due to the great public education that I received. Every Oregon child should have the same opportunities that I did.
What does K-12 education reform look like? We need a longer school year with more instruction time each day. Art, music and physical education should be back in the classroom, not just talked about. Our teachers should be from the best of the best with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in their subjects of instruction. We need to continue developing a robust career technical career education track allowing students to prepare for well-paying, well-respected jobs in the construction of and managing our infrastructure and in manufacturing what the world needs. K-12 education savings accounts should be allowed, giving families of moderate and low incomes the option of selecting public charter schools that their children can attend, an option that only wealthy families currently enjoy. This is real K-12 education reform.
Real K-12 education reform will require new legislative leaders, unafraid of taking on the powerful special interests that care more about their constituencies than Oregon’s children. We will only be able to elect such leaders if we pass sensible term limits for our legislature. This allows us to replace our stymied legislators with new, better and passionate leaders.
Let us pass term limits for a brighter future for Oregon’s children.