What better way to spend President’s Day than to remind politicians of the reason for their existence? Today, the kids and I hopped on a PTA sponsored bus to Salem, to partake in a rally to alert our electeds to the plight of our Oregon schools. This particular rally was in favor of yet another levy to save teaching jobs, and a bond measure to support our aging school facilities. Sigh…
It is so easy to stand there on the podium and say that we need to support our kids, but it’s a whole other story to figure out how. None of the speakers I heard offered anything other than lame sound bites of what we already know (our kids are our future, yadda yadda, yadda…) and uttered no bright ideas whatsoever on how to even remotely tackle the problem of our ailing school system. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting more and more hesitant to approve and vote for more school funding. Sure the schools need it, but what we give doesn’t always seem to end up where originally intended. PPS is like a black hole in space, into which all matter is drawn and never seen again. Padded and protected by layers of stifling liability, it has become an unwieldy, expensive giant that will be a nightmare to untangle, and probably impossible to streamline without the aid of politically instituted scalpels. Until the Cyclops turns its eye onto itself and makes a clean effort to shed some of its own weight and become a leaner, more efficiently working machine, I can’t honestly say that I want to support another levy or bond measure. It is ABSOLUTELY true that there is no more fat to trim from schools. At this point many of them are skeletal. But PPS is not synonymous with “schools”. Again, it is a sluggish, bureaucratic worms’ nest of red tape, and in the overall calculations, the costs of running the actual schools constitutes a truly laughably small percentage of the funds required to operate this top-heavy, and well padded institution. Yet, the classroom is always where the cuts are felt the most. Why the hell is that???
Outside the Capitol, the Stand For Children folks were handing out blue umbrellas in the sunshine, to serve as a symbol of their plea for a Rainy Day Fund. I couldn’t help but thinking that it’s been continuously raining on Oregon schools since the passage of Measure 5 in 1990. At this point, the proposed levy and bond measures are just band aids on a gaping wound. All my griping aside – chances are good that I will indeed support the two measures, albeit not in a manner of hopeful anticipation. Really – what else could I do? Like everyone else, I want the best for my kids. Measure 5 pushed the responsibility of school funding from local government to the State level. The State has yet to come up with an even remotely stable substitute for the tremendous loss that was then incurred. By now, these shortfalls have gone on for more than a decade, affecting an entire generation of students. Which I guess, is why we all went to Salem. Here is the genius question of the day. Short of repealing Measure 5 (any bozo can come up with that one, and it surely would get my vote), any enlightened input and creative thought is welcome: WHAT DO WE DO???
I don’t want to sound like a chronic complainer that never offers remedies, but I’m currently working on a different blog entry with things I think could be done to reduce at least some of PPS’s looming budget cuts, and I don’t want to spoil it by repeating it all here. Suffice to say that I think there are several unexplored but very viable options that will at least make some difference toward digging us out of our Measure 5 hole, but that it will take the non-swaying creativity and follow-through of one hell of a ballsy visionary to make it happen. Kitzhaber, are you ready? Maybe the best thing really is to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water? Consider slaughtering the systemically afflicted sacred hydra that is our educational system, and start over with a clean slate? The more I learn, I’m starting to think that the answer is Yes – that is exactly what needs to be done. Then maybe once again, we could put the future of our kids in sharp focus, and establish a stellar education for all as a primary goal. Ha – what a novelty that would be….
I will post my collection of suggestions soon – I promise – but at this point my honest feeling is that my “$9 a month for the typical homeowner” that the levy would cost us would be better spent renewing our OMSI membership, in terms of improving my kids’ education. As for the $300 a year required for the proposed bond measure – I don’t know… At this point, a donation to the Oregon Food Bank would feel a lot more satisfactory… Oh well, at least my kids and I got to see the Oregon State Capitol, so the day wasn’t entirely wasted.