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School board hunts for new funding sources

480x270-Salem-Keizer School-District-logo

For the Keizertimes

Ways to increase funding for schools were the main subjects of a work session of the state’s three largest school districts May 28 at the Local Government Center in Salem.

Most of the school board members and a few administrators participated. The three largest districts are, in order, Portland Public Schools, the Salem-Keizer School District and the Beaverton School District.

All the Salem-Keizer directors except Rick Kimball and Jeff Faville were there, as were Christy Perry, who will become superintendent July 1, and Mary Paulson, chief of staff.

Among the topics were impacts on high-poverty areas, funding for preschools, criteria for measuring achievement, full-day kindergarten, physical education requirements, funding for career and technical education, and possible lobbying of Oregon’s congressional delegation.

Jim Green, chair of the Salem-Keizer board, told the participants from the two other districts about Salem-Keizer’s policy governance system, which focuses on student achievement and holds the superintendent accountable for it. He also told them of the district’s strategic plan, on which the superintendent’s budget proposal is based.

Nancy MacMorris-Adix, a Salem-Keizer director, asked whether legislators understand what money that is well spent on education does.

Green replied, “It depends on which individual legislator you speak to.”  He suggested having legislators visit classrooms to learn what is going on.

Green added that the Oregon School Boards Association is reinstituting its legislative conference, and he quoted Gov. John Kitzhaber as saying there is a power imbalance when school boards come to the table.

On the matter of assessed values, Chris Brantley, another Salem-Keizer director, said school officials should figure out whether it was right for money from the Portland area should flow to other parts of the state. He also praised the state of Washington’s sliding-scale reimbursement system for small districts.

Another matter Green said should be discussed was that of achievement tests being given in English only.

Steve Buel, a Portland Public Schools director, said Kitzhaber’s 40-40-20 goal (40 percent college graduates, 40 percent people who have had postsecondary education, 20 percent high school graduates) was not as attainable as a goal focused on having all high school students graduate on time.