Two recent decisions at the state level political arena are making life even more complicated for local school district superintendents already stressed to the max by budgetary problems.
One is Gov. Kitzhaber's vetoes of school bills which will cost local districts hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional cutbacks if the vetoes are not overriden by the state legislature when they go into yet another special session tomorrow (Friday). The second is a decision by the Oregon Board of Education to kill student testing next year in writing, math and science because of cuts in the state budget.
Superintendents Brad Royse of Enterprise, Ed Jensen of Wallowa and Rich Graham of Joseph are all hoping that the governor's vetoes can be overriden.
In addition to drastic budget cuts already being employed at the Enterprise school district, Royse forsees an additional $387,450 in cuts if the vetoes are not overriden and Measure 19 in the Sept. 17 mail in election goes down.
"We are truly a state in crisis as far as education is concerned," said Royse.
Some schools in the Willamette Valley are suggesting the possibility of reducing the school year one month to cut costs.
The Wallowa school district's more than $1 million in cash carryovers will not save the school from the crisis if the state does not come up with a solution to its education dilemma, said Jensen. "If you are on the Titanic it doesn't make much difference if you are on the stern or the bow," he said.
Jensen says, based on average daily membership (ADM) figures, that the vetoes alone would cost the Wallowa school district over $171,000 in the next school year. If Ballot Measure 19 is defeated the school would lose another $90,000 in possible moneys.
Graham places the loss to the Joseph school district at a total of $266,318 if the vetoes are not overriden and Measure 19 fails. He says the school has a $100,000 cash carryover which could be implemented to help soften the blow. He said that some potential additional cuts would be discussed when he met with the school board after deadline Tuesday night.
Royse was very outspoken about the loss of writing, math problem-solving and science testing in the elementary and middle school levels. "This is going to undermine the entire reform process we have been working on since 1991," he said. "To me we are taking five steps backwards by stopping this testing. It is not fair to the kids or the schools."
Royse made these remarks cognizant of the fact that the removal of school testing by the Oregon Board of Education is only on a temporary basis, to be reinstuted in school year 2003-2004 if moneys are restored.
Oregon's relatively new report card system to grade school performance will be negatively impacted by the lack of educational accountability created by the testing.
Jensen and Graham both focused on the negative impact to students above that to the particular school districts. Jensen said the state testing is a nice measure for particular students. In spite of the fact that Wallowa has scored high in report card scores the past two years, the superintendent from Wallowa says that many variables somewhat reduce the accuracy of school evaluations.
Graham says that the individual measurements for students is the key that will be missed. He said that information gathered through testing throughout the state is not just compiled, but is actually put in use at the local level for the benefit of students.
Student testing at the 10th grade level will remain intact because they are mandated by the Certificate of Initial Mastery.