The new statewide graduation rates released yesterday by the Department of Education are understandably getting a great deal of attention. The four-year high school graduation rates have improved a bit, but are still at about 68 percent.
Experts are diving into the numbers on a district-by-district and school-by-school basis, trying to find patterns that can lead to more success across the state. But the numbers paint a very simple picture: If we want to improve K-12 education and increase graduation rates, we have to fund schools like they really are a priority.
For most of the past decade, funding for schools has been on a rapid decline. Even the Governor’s proposed budget for next school year, when adjusted for inflation, is less money than the crisis budget K-12 school districts are facing now; it will mean an even shorter school year and larger class sizes over the next two years.
Oregon currently has the third largest class size in the nation and over the past few years, we’ve seen high school class sizes increase by nearly 30 percent. It’s not unusual to have 60 kids or more in class in Oregon high schools. Wonder if that has anything to do with graduate rates?
(At the same time, the amount the state is giving away in tax breaks has grown by billions of dollars—28% just since 2009. That is money being drained away from our schools, senior healthcare, and public safety.)