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Buehler’s not an education candidate

Knute Buehler is the Republican candidate for governor of Oregon.  He has announced as his highest priority to lead Oregon schools from the nation’s bottom five to the top five in five years. Oregon governors serve four-year terms. So why is he not committed to four years?

Buehler has spoken and written on his subject of highest interest because, he says, “Oregon politicians have failed to do what is necessary to improve the quality and funding of our K-12 public schools.”  While he further writes that “good things” are happening in our schools every day,  “too many schools have been left out and behind.”  For just one of the many problems is the number who fail to graduate. He must not be aware of the huge disparities between districts throughout the state and their divergent delivery abilities.

Buehler has served two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives.  Why during his two terms did we not hear anything from him about his interest to reform Oregon education K-12?  Since he’s an orthopedic surgeon who was trained, as most of them are, in part at least, by tax-supported institutions, then why is he not, in his mid-50s, serving the medical needs of the Central Oregon area in which he chose to reside?  Since he says his goal as a state leader is education reform, why did he spin his wheels trying to secure the Secretary of State job?  After all, its focused on audits and elections?

Oregon has proven time and again that the voting citizens in this state are, with some exceptions in wealthy school districts, only able and willing to financially support at the very minimal level or willing to support public education at all. Buehler says he can increase the general fund budget for public schools an average of 15 percent per year or a whooping 75 percent during his plan. He says he’ll get the $1.2 billion he needs by taking it from public pensions and that health insurance that supports Oregon’s poorest citizens. As his GOP colleagues in the Oregon House and Senate are so fond of chortling: “That’ll happen when pigs fly!”

He says he will see to it that the money he can take away from retired public employees and cutbacks and costs associated with health insurance will bring into existence performance-based classrooms. Hope he will soon explain the specifics of what he knows about performance-based classrooms and how successfully or not this re-staging of schools will deal with this reform, its pitfalls and challenges.

Buehler throws around such concepts as “critical, evidence-based proficiency standards” as though all a governor must do is announce his intentions in tradition-bound schools and they’ll transform like magic into a new order of things. This candidate’s interests sound so very similar to  a man who got to be governor, John Kitzhaber, another medical doctor who sounded serious in his desire to reform Oregon education and then walked away from it by hiring a big name from the East to lead his plan for reform.

Buehler references the 180-day school year in Washington state as a model for Oregon’s 165-day year to emulate. What is known is that for years Washington citizens have been more interested in public education at all levels by investing in and modernizing its public schools and universities.  Oregon’s residents do not send its representatives to Salem with a plan to fund education at any level.  To the contrary, the representatives arrive at Oregon’s capitol, especially from GOP-dominate areas, with the order to cut, cut, cut everywhere and public education kindergarten through graduate school has suffered accordingly.

This writer is not impressed by Governor Kate Brown’s interests or efforts to improve public education.  However, knowing what’s known about Knute Buehler does not reassure that he is going to turn any corner in public education.  He and his wife are among Oregon’s wealthiest residents who, with their million dollar incomes from professional services, are also involved in 14 other business activities all of which are in business to make money not perform charitable, volunteer, or public services.  They appear to be people who solely seek wealth accumulation and the related power to wield it.

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion weekly in the Keizertimes.)