The Education Game
Education should be a tool for the future of our state and our country, not for politics and political gain.
I have watched for many years as the people of Oregon have been manipulated by the promise of better education, only to be disappointed and manipulated again. The Oregon State Lottery was founded on the promise of funding education only to see the share of dedicated funds reduced over time. Marijuana was legalized with the intent of the tax going to fund education with no guarantee or future disbursals. Now we have a potential tax initiative that claims to help fund education with no dedicated percentages for education, which will only result in a new money grab for the politically connected, if passed.
Education and public safety are at the top of almost all polling of Oregonians as their utmost priorities for government. Yet, over the course of the last decade we have seen the share of the total state budget for education drop from 28.6% to 18.2% and public safety from 7.1% to 6.2%. At the same time, Human Services has risen from 24.3% to 43.1%.
This level of investment into education leaves us woefully short of even average funding levels when compared with other states. It should be no wonder that we have one of the shortest school years and one of the largest student to teacher ratios. How is it surprising that we have one of the lowest graduation rates as a state? What should be surprising is that our academic achievement ratings gravitate toward the middle, outpacing our funding.
It is time for a new consideration to the way we fund those paramount issues of public safety and education in this state. It is time they are provided stability and adequacy. It is time they receive the first dollars allocated instead of the last. It is time these issues are removed as the political pawns. It is time that Oregonians’ voices are heard and that a set-aside is created solely for the purposes of funding public safety and education. SJR 204 seeks to refer to the people this very idea.
Let me be clear that money is not the only answer to problems facing education and public safety, but it must begin with stable and adequate funding. The roller coaster effect of adding and cutting programs must be leveled out in order to build and maintain quality programs. The diversion of monies intended for public schools to special interests must be curtailed. While I understand that there are many things standing in the way of progress, we will not fix the situation with the same thinking that was used to create it. PERS is a problem. Healthcare costs are a problem. How we allocate money is a problem. How we use education to further political agendas is a problem. With stability and adequacy, maybe we can begin to solve our problems.
Please contact your local representative and ask them to pass SJR 204.