Accomplishing the Quality Education Model
When people talk of the need to dramatically overhaul public education in Oregon I point them to the Quality Education Commission and their model for public schools. The Quality Education Model (QEM) was created a decade ago in a bi-partisan manner. It identifies the elements of high performance schools and the costs associated with them. Designed to serve as a tool for use by state lawmakers in developing the K-12 education budget, the model puts a price tag on quality K-12 education in Oregon.
As your next Governor I can promise you that the QEM will not just be the nice report that we have ignored for the past decade. Over 70% of Oregonians said in 1999 we should fund schools at the QEM level and I believe they meant it! It will become one the guiding forces of my Administration in helping Oregon public schools become a model to the nation.
My Proposal for Funding Public Schools at the QEM
A leadership commitment is needed to reach this goal and I am ready to deliver. I will bring all stakeholders to the table – including teachers, education support professionals, parents and students – to hammer out a proposal that we will bring to the voters in 2011.
I believe it is time to close tax loopholes that are old, outdated and ineffective and to put that money to work for education. Currently, the state forgoes about $30 billion in tax revenue per biennium, more than the spending for education, health care and public safety combined. As Governor, I will work to reduce this lost revenue by 5 percent, either through the Legislature or through the voters by ballot measure.
This relatively small deduction would generate almost $2 billion per biennium to dedicate exclusively to public education; fully funding the QEM, community colleges and higher education. As Governor, I am committed to this goal.
Treating Educators As Professionals
Too often, critics and those who offer false reform attack the work of dedicated education professionals.
I believe that the best way to ensure a quality education is with high quality teachers. I support mentoring programs to give new the support and guidance they need. I oppose proposals that force teachers to focus on teaching to a test and not on the needs of their students.
Furthermore, I believe local school districts should collectively bargain with their staff. A one-size-fits-all salary schedule would be a mistake, not just for local communities, but for teachers and the state. I have a long history of support for labor principles including the right to organize, to bargain collectively and to strike if necessary. This will not change when I am Governor.
We cannot allow long-term retirement security to be compromised by more short-term political “fixes.” Our Public Employee Retirement System is one of the soundest in the country and will have my strongest support. It is a promise that must be honored.
My approach to PERS is straightforward. First, we must pay the negotiated benefits that we have promised to public employees. Second, I will oppose efforts to create even further reductions in benefits. Anyone who calls for a Tier4 in the system does not understand PERS and is simply using this issue to further reduce public employee benefits.
New Leadership for Education
What does new leadership look like?
First it starts with a willingness to recognize that we have a problem with education funding here in Oregon.
Leadership is about priorities. A new leader would then set priorities to solve the problem. In my campaign, I have made the full funding of public education one of my three key priorities when I am in office. This is not an empty promise.
Of course any Democratic candidate for Governor worth his or her salt is going to say that education funding will be a priority of their Administration.
The difference is I have walked my talk in this regard.
What separates my leadership from mere sloganeering around public education is the willingness to be specific, propose new and innovative ideas and lay out a path to accomplish them.
I need your help to secure adequate funding for education. Please join my campaign to energize Oregon.