Newsletter #6
Oregon SOS

Why we say NO to SB 1581

This is a long newsletter, but important. Please read it to learn which critical unanswered questions you should raise with legislators, which legislators to contact, and for notes from OEIT reports that show they know these plans have not worked where tried, or have not been tried in other places due to equity concerns.

For a little history, back with our Newsletter #1 we wrote about our concerns as these education plans were being developed by LearnWorks and the Oregon Education Investment Team - the groups that "gifted" their plans to the Oregon Education Investment Board. We have submitted testimony related to our concerns, some of which you can find on our new blog.

Has much changed now that there is legislation being pushed through for this "OEIB bill" SB 1581? Not really. The one good thing was that after community pressure, the state held seven public forums and gave a fairly honest recap of the concerns at the last OEIB meeting. You can find the concerns in the Public Outreach Meetings report summaries. At the last OEIB meeting, there was a discussion that the OEIB would need to addresss these concerns in their planned "Achievement Compacts" (see meeting date on right for fleshing out details of compacts) and that they may need to not move forward with the NCLB waiver if the federal government doesn't allow for plans to address citizen concerns and detach from harmful waiver strings. Achievement compacts have not even been approved yet. That is what SB 1581 would allow for. SB 1581 also would give us a new CEO - Chief Education Officer.

We understand that some groups are superficially supporting SB 1581 so that they can be on the good side of the Governor and have a seat at the table for impacting what goes in the compacts. We understand that strategy, but are terribly disappointed that more people are not standing up for what they see is just bad education policy. We cannot imagine any responsible legislator signing off on this bill unless they get answers to some critically unanswered questions, such as:

  • What are the specific intended immediate and long term uses of the Achievement Compacts by the OEIB and the Department of Education?
  • What are the budget implications for the state and district related to the Achievement Compacts?
  • What are the projected short and long range costs of implementing the OEIB's plans for state interventions in low performing schools?
  • What are the projected short and long term costs of the statewide “integrated data system” the OEIB is calling for?   Included in these estimates should be the projected costs of new test development, administration and professional development to help teachers better use assessment data and the suggested revenue sources to cover these costs.
  • What are the plans and cost projections necessary to scale up the proven practices of targeted teacher collaboration and professional development documented in Quality Education Commission reports?
  • How  will essential student skills of critical thinking and problem solving be measured, and what are the projected costs of developing and implementing these measurements?
  • What are the specific initiatives and costs to help school districts remove poverty's barriers to learning?
  • What are the specific intended uses of data provided by the State's Quality Education Commission reports? How will that data impact the content of Achievement Compacts and other OEIB plans?
To be clear, we at Oregon SOS do not like these plans. We would put more emphasis on lowering class sizes and providing programs and opportunities to students and wrap around services. We do not think "outcomes based budgeting" is a good idea for funding education, as it ends up putting a great deal of focus on measuring narrow outcomes rather than providing a well-rounded education for ALL students. (Outcomes based budgeting is straight from the ALEC Budget Reform Toolkit). If the state really wanted to transform the system of education, they would do so in a way that would move away from top down mandates and start from the ground up with the input of parents, teachers and students. To transform the system also requires getting away from an education system designed to have winners and losers.

And, what about the CEO? Is this person just going to promote the plans of the Governor? While we don't like Kitzhaber's education plans, many of us voted for him and feel Dudley's education plans would have been worse. Do we want any Governor to have so much control like this? One only need look to the havoc in NYC schools to see what happens when you centralize power - and Oregon is doing this at the state level.

PLEASE RAISE THESE QUESTIONS WITH YOUR LEGISLATORS! In particular, contact those on the Ways & Means Committee, which is where this bill currently is. Also contact House Education Committee members as they will receive the bill next. Keep your eye on SB 1540, too, the education omnibus bill that just left the Senate Education and Workforce Commitee and is now in the House. It is a mixed bag and could get some items, like merit-pay, tossed in at the last minute.
You can always copy your own legislators, too.

Some other interesting notes to share with Legislators
It turns out, the state is already aware that their plans may not be so good. Read these :

Excerpts from Staff Report to the OEIT regarding Achievement Compacts and Performance Based Funding
TO: SB 909 Work Group Members 
FROM: Todd Jones, Oregon Education Investment Project 
RE: Other States’ Experiences with Performance Funding in Post-Secondary Education 
DATE: October 6, 2011 
"In February 2011 the Community College Research Center of Columbia University produced a report titled “The Politics of Performance Funding in Eight States: Origins, Demise, and Change” with funding from the Lumina Foundation for Education. The report notes that, “Only half the U.S. states have adopted performance funding for higher education…Moreover, about half of those that have adopted performance funding later eliminated it….Even among the states that retained performance funding, its form and content have not been stable; states have often and substantially changed both the amount of funding they allocate for performance funding and the criteria by which they award that funding after the strategy was initially adopted.” 
TO: SB 909 Work Group, Education Investment Project 
FROM: Todd Jones 
RE: Summary of Other States’ K-12 Programs and Initiatives 
DATE: November 8, 2011 
Outcome-Focused Funding 
"Examples are limited. 
I have not identified a school district or state that has altered its traditional enrollment-based funding formula to include outcome-focused funding responsive to data on programmatic return-on-investment. In those states and districts that have or have had performance-based funding programs, programs primarily have taken the form of rewards for districts, schools and individual teachers that achieve prescribed outcomes. Tabitha Grossman of the National Governors Association suggests this is because states are reluctant to change their funding formulas due to concerns relating to equitable funding.." 
These findings from staff research seem to make it clear that Oregon is about to embark on a full scale committment to an idea that has a very poor record of success and/or no record at all because it simply has not been attempted because they raise serious questions about funding equity. How can we responsibly enact these achievement compacts without at least very careful and fully vetted discussions of these questions?
PLEASE CONTACT LEGISLATORS and make sure to COME TO THE RALLY IN SALEM on 2/20 and raise your voice on education concerns!