House Republicans: We’re “Happy” With School Closures and Larger Class Sizes

Tell your network:

Tell your network:

Here’s a telling line from a recent Oregonian article about the K-12 schools budget being debated right now in Salem: “House Republican Leader Kevin Cameron, R-Salem, said his caucus is happy with the K-12 budget.”

Really? REALLY?

The currently proposed K-12 budget will lead to school closures, larger class sizes, fewer school days, and teacher layoffs. How can Cameron and his fellow Republicans be “happy” with a budget that drastically shortchanges our kids’ education?

In case they missed it, we’ve copied below a list of recent news clips about the devastating impact this budget will have on K-12 schools–including five scheduled to close in Cameron’s own town.

What can you do? Speak out by contacting your legislators and telling them to dig deeper into the Education Stability Fund to protect students now. For every $100 million more spent on the K-12 budget, it’s the equivalent of protecting nearly 1,100 teaching jobs or a week of school for every elementary school student.



School closures

Salem-Keizer plans to close five elementary schools

“Officials at Oregon’s second-largest school district have a plan to close five school buildings over the next two years. But it’s not final yet. Salem-Keizer would shutter Lake Labish, Fruitland and Bethel Elementary schools this summer. Rosedale and Hazel Green would close next summer. District chief of staff Mary Paulson says budget cuts are forcing the moves.”
“As a citizens advisory committee presented a tentative, narrowed-down list of schools that may shut down next year in the Lake Oswego School District, a few parents urged the school board to close one school, instead of three. A committee of community members charged to recommend schools for closure have recently decided to further examine configurations that could close either Oak Creek or Uplands Elementary Schools on the north side of the district, while either River Grove and Palisades is shut down on the south side. The board wants the group to choose a school from each side for potential closure.”
“More than 80 Gales Creek and Dilley Elementary parents and supporters rallied in support of keeping them open at a meeting Wednesday to discuss closing or consolidating the small rural schools. The meeting was the product of a community summit subgroupassigned to study the cost-saving potential of closing one or both of the schools. The subgroup is also considering the possibility of closing the district office and relocating administrators into one or more school buildings to save money.”
Statesman Journal
“Tucked just outside Salem city limits, five small, rural schools welcome students as they did 100 years ago. Farmland still surrounds Bethel, Fruitland, Hazel Green and Lake Labish elementaries, and Rosedale is perched in the South hills amid conifer trees. The schools boast long histories, with the oldest, Hazel Green, dating to 1865. But parents say it’s not the pastoral setting or history that makes these schools great, it’s the one-on-one attention from dedicated teachers and class sizes as small as 14 students.”


Read small school profiles: Bethel — Fruitland — Hazel Green — Lake Labish — Rosedale
“The Oregon Legislature revealed a new budget plan Tuesday. It gives schools a little more but still not enough. Locally, the Central Point School District has already made decisions to cut back. The district has decided to close Crater High School’s Academy of Natural Sciences School. Parts of that school and the students will be integrated into other schools at Crater. The district is also looking at slashing days and dozens of jobs.”
Register Guard
“Thursday was like most days in first-grade teacher Sharri Stewart’s Crest Drive Elementary School classroom. There were piles of pretzels on each student’s desk for a midmorning snack. There was a 30-minute break for P.E. And there was plenty of enthusiasm from both Stewart — ‘You guys are awesome!’ — and the students, who shot their arms into the air when Stewart asked them to name some ‘big words.’ ‘I have a big word — transformation!” a student named Audrey said. Fitting. Could there be a better word to describe what Stewart and her colleagues have been through this school year? What the entire Eugene School District is going through right now? Thursday might have been a typical day in Stewart’s class, but 2010-11 has been anything but a typical year for the school district.”

“When Joel Sebastian heard that the Eugene School District was planning to close four schools this year, theCanby middle school principal felt sure his own district would never have to consider such a proposal. ‘It’s almost as if you were reading a story about a crime in your neighborhood’ Sebastian said. ‘Even if it happened a block away, you never think it’s going to happen to your house.’ But just last week Sebastian found himself supporting a similar idea, closing his own school, Ackerman, to avoid additional staff reductions.”
Statesman Journal
“Nearly 100 students, teachers, volunteers and parents filled the auditorium at Stephens Middle School to testify in favor of keeping three small schools open next year. Lake Labish, Bethel and Fruitland elementary schools enroll 60 to 90 students each year, which is why they’re a unique learning environment, supporters say. The district estimates it can save as much as $600,000 per year in instruction costs, staff travel time and other expenses if it sends the students to nearby elementary schools. The move would put Salem-Keizer one step closer to solving next year’s $55 million shortfall. ‘It seems like a really small drop in this really huge bucket,’ Lake Labish parent Julie Linder said.”
“The Lake Oswego School District will close one third of its elementary schools over the next two years, despite vocal opposition and about $4 million in additional funds from the city and the community. In a unanimous vote before a full house Monday, board members approved closing Palisades next year and Bryant and Uplands the following year. When all three are closed, the district will save about $2.3 million a year.”
Staff losses

Salem-Keizer Schools proposed budget includes loss of 228 teachers
Salem Statesman Journal
“Salem-Keizer schools would lose 228 teachers, close both pools and eliminate programs including swimming and 7th grade volleyball and wrestling, according to Superintendent Sandy Husk’s proposed budget presented tonight.”

“The Tigard-Tualatin School District would shed the equivalent of more than 100 staff positions under a far-reaching set of proposed budget cuts unveiled at a community meeting Wednesday night. The recommended reductions come as the district copes with an expected $9.5 million shortfall — nearly 10 percent of its budget — heading into the 2011-12 school year. But even if every item on the line-by-line list handed out Wednesday went to the chopping block, that would still only save the district just under $9.3 million.”

Rogue River Press
“A notice of ‘probable layoff’ was issued earlier this week to 26 teachers and counselors who work in Rogue River schools — nearly half of the district’s licensed staff. Based on their seniority, teachers with less than eight years in the district could be without a job in the fall. Rogue River School District superintendent Dr. Harry Vanikiotis said that the issuance was required by law, and without it, all teachers would be guaranteed jobs in the 2011-2012 school year. Facing a $1.18 budget shortfall, he said there are ‘no guarantees.'”
Willamette Week
“When Gov. John Kitzhaber unveiled his budget last month, it included about $5.6 billion for K-12 education in Oregon. That’s a lot of money but is also about $1 billion less than lawmakers and school districts thought they were going to get as recently as last June. Tax receipts simply have not kept pace with rising personnel costs, however, so the expected total of about $6.6 billion for K-12 education is not there. That means Oregon’s 197 school districts face some combination of teacher layoffs, compensation reductions and shortening the school year for the 2011-13 budget cycle.”
“In what some parents called a shocking decision, the Sisters School District will eliminate the position of principal at Sisters Elementary School in a cost-cutting move. The unusual move is being made to help trim the budget, the district possibly needing to cut up to $3 million. According to School Board Chairwoman Christine Jones, the district is trying to focus cuts to keep from affecting time in the classroom. This school year is the first time in recent years that the kindergarten program at Sisters Elementary has been cut to half-day. Making deep cuts now, the district hopes will allow them to stabilize the budget, avoiding cuts next year.”
Statesman Journal
“Salem-Keizer students likely will return to classrooms filled with more kids, fewer assistants and fewer supplies such as glue and crayons next year. They’re less likely to go on field trips, participate in after-school activities and will need to pay more to play sports. Those are a few of the potential effects that the district’s $55 million budget shortfall could have on classrooms next year. In all, the district might cut as many as 400 teachers and 230 support staffers, as well as slash budgets for supplies and programs. Classrooms might swell to 28 students in kindergarten through second grade and as many as 30 in third through fifth grade.”


“At Ridgewood Elementary, librarian Debbie Alvarez taught students how to build a PowerPoint slide around a poem. At the International School of Beaverton, Rosa Rothenberger helped a social studies teacher find books and materials to create an Asian history class. At Highland Park Middle School,Terri Kuechle teaches students how to focus their online research, to cite their work and to avoid plagiarism. Parents may know the names of their children’s classroom teachers, but it’s unlikely they know the school librarian or what she does on a daily basis. ‘That’s always been the bane of our profession,’ said Susan Stone,  president-elect of the Oregon Association of School Libraries. ‘We’ve got to shout about what we do.'”
Portland Tribune
“Jen Blair loves a challenge. As Mountain View Middle School’s media specialist, her biggest reward comes from finding the right book or resource to place in a student or teacher’s hands. ‘It gives me so much joy,’ said Blair, who has served as a certified teacher-librarian in the Beaverton School District for 13 years. ‘It’s why I’m on this earth. I still get that feeling of victory when we find the perfect resource.’ Blair is one of 51 media specialists waiting to learn whether she will have a job to return to in the fall.”
Statesman Journal
“Salem-Keizer School District started notifying 192 classified employees Monday that their positions will be eliminated in June because of budget cuts. Their job titles range from custodian to classroom assistant for a total of 152 full-time equivalents, which will save about $7.7 million. It’s the largest cut announced so far as the Salem-Keizer School District tries to slash $55 million from next year’s budget. ‘I feel really saddened for the employees, the community and the students,’ said Salem-Keizer Superintendent Sandy Husk.”
Beaverton Valley Times
“Beaverton School District employees have agreed to take pay cuts in order to preserve programs and prevent some staff layoffs. School officials announced Tuesday that the Beaverton School District and the Beaverton Education Association ratified an agreement for licensed employees to reduce their pay by about 2 percent in the 2011-12 school year by agreeing to take four unpaid furlough days.”


Program cuts
Mail Tribune
“Full-day kindergarten at seven low-income Medford elementary schools will end next year, the latest casualty of budget cuts and sanctions by the federal government for failure to meet benchmarks in the No Child Left Behind Act. ‘We can no longer afford to pay the bill for full-day kindergarten,’ said Rich Miles, Medford schools elementary education director.”
The Lower Columbia Daily News
“Spending on students in the Salem-Keizer school district has increased each year for a decade, yet the district is about $55 million short of the money it needs to maintain its current services. Under a budget proposed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, per-pupil spending will fall to 2005 levels, according to the Salem Journal Statesman. That means larger class sizes, the possibility of consolidating small schools and reducing or eliminating sports and arts programs. ‘This is going to be the most severe reduction I’ve ever led a system through,’ said Superintendent Sandy Husk. ‘It’s really just staggering to try to get this budget to balance.'”
Statesman Journal
“Avi Hernandez scans the soccer field where the boys he coaches are warming up before practice at Parrish Middle School. He sees himself in them, many of whom are at risk of getting involved in gang activity and dropping out of school. He worries about what will happen if after-school programs at 11 middle schools are cut from the Salem-Keizer School District budget. ‘Their grades have improved, and so has their attendance and their attitude and behavior with teachers,’ Hernandez said. ‘It’s all about keeping the kids safe and helping them have a future.’ Hernandez believes he is where he is today, a freshman at Western Oregon University with plans to become a teacher, because of after-school programs like those at Parrish and Stephens, both of which he attended.”
Statesman Journal
“‘Salem schools are literally known all over the United States,’ said Chuck Bolton, the retired Portland band director who oversees the Oregon School Activities Association’s band and orchestra championships. When Bolton brings in judges from the nation’s top music universities, he said, ‘They already know the Salem schools are good, or when they leave they know Salem schools are good.’ But that enviable record could begin to be eroded this year. Salem-Keizer schools Superintendent Sandy Husk has said the district will be $55 million short of the approximately $375 million needed to maintain current programs. That could mean layoffs of 250 to 400 teachers and 130 to 230 support staffers, cutting deep into popular programs.”
Statesman Journal
“Parents, grandparents and students filled McKay High School’s auditorium, clogged the stairwell, stood in doorways and overflowed into the cafeteria Tuesday, all in an effort to save their favorite programs in the face of a $55 million shortfall. More than 40 people signed up to testify at the Salem-Keizer School District Budget Committee hearing, including dozens who spoke in favor of saving the swim program — the only sport targeted for possible elimination next year. South Salem High School swim team member Stephanie Gates urged the district not to close Olinger Pool, part of the proposed cuts, because it would be too expensive to reopen.”
“All school districts are facing tough cuts, at Bend La Pine district this means operating under reduced services. Around 85 percent of the budget is made up of staff costs. So Deputy Superintendent Rexford said staff cuts are highly possible. Also on the chopping block, classroom essentials. ‘It means fewer text books, it means fewer computers, it means limited supplies for the classroom,’ said Rexford.”
“The U.S. Department of Education has denied Oregon’s request to reduce special education funding in light of budget cuts and will cut more than $15 million federal funding to schools if the state doesn’t reverse course. States lose federal special education money if they lower their contribution to those programs without a waiver. Oregon Department of Education officials sought the federal waiver, saying the state faced declining revenue projections throughout the summer, forcing the department to reduce the amount of money supporting special education programs. But the federal government didn’t see things the same way. U.S. Department of Education officials say Oregon needs to tap into its reserves and return special education funding to 2009-10 levels. If it doesn’t, the federal government will reduce its contribution to the state by $15.7 million for the 2011-12 school year – a direct reduction to local school district budgets.”
Statesman Journal
“All library and media jobs at Salem-Keizer elementary and middle schools would be cut under a proposal by Superintendent Sandy Husk. The 48 library and media instructors were notified Thursday of the plan, part of the district’s attempt to deal with a $55 million shortfall for the upcoming budget year. Also notified Thursday that their jobs were being targeted for elimination were 11 health instructional assistants and six career specialists.”


Hermiston school budget cuts looming

“The Hermiston School District has taken one step closer to massive budget cuts, a move that will most likely mean numerous jobs on the chopping block. The district held an informational meeting at the high school Tuesday night, letting people know what to expect over the next few months. School Board Chair Philip Hamm says the district will almost certainly have to cut jobs. It’s facing a nearly $1 million shortfall, and nearly 90 percent of the budget goes toward personnel costs.”
Statesman Journal
“Visitors got some sobering news Tuesday night, but they also heard some constructive solutions. A local forum hosted by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce in the North Salem High School auditorium gave local governments a chance to share economic forecasts and discuss the measures necessary to respond to budget shortfalls. Representatives from the cities of Salem and Keizer, as well as from Marion County, Chemeketa Community College, Cherriots and Salem-Keizer School District, addressed an audience of about 60 to discuss economic troubles and answer questions.”
Beaverton Valley Times
“Beaverton School District students face six fewer school days, higher class sizes, no media specialists in their libraries and fewer school staff to offer them support in the 2011-12 school year. Those are just a few of the impacts that could become a reality under a prioritized list of 25 potential reductions revealed during Tuesday night’s Budget Committee. ‘We are looking at a number of difficult cuts,’ said Superintendent Jerry Colonna, ‘We tried to protect as much as possible direct student instruction in the classroom.'”
Statesman Journal
“Spending in Salem-Keizer schools has grown an average of 5 percent per year during the past decade on a per-student basis, outpacing inflation and the state average, a Statesman Journal analysis shows. Yet this year, the district will be about $55 million short of the approximately $375 million needed to maintain current programs, Superintendent Sandy Husk said. Class sizes likely will grow to levels not seen in a decade, she said. Small schools could be consolidated. Some programs, including sports, music and activities, might be reduced or eliminated. Employees are facing potential layoffs and will be asked to negotiate salary adjustments and benefit reductions.”
“‘Given Oregon’s severe revenue constraints, there is simply no way to increase funding in one area without cutting from someplace else,’ said Governor John Kitzhaber. Despite the difficult realities surrounding the state’s revenue stream, democratic leaders believe the cut for K-12 education would be too severe. ‘We think the co-chairs budget of $5.7 billion for K-12 is not adequate and the $444 million in reserves is simply too much to stash away at a time of such deep cuts,’ said Rep. Dave Hunt, House democratic leader out of Clackamas County.”
District ready to decide on cuts

East Oregonian
“The budget cuts are coming. That message emerged from a Hermiston School District board meeting Monday night. ‘This is tough, tough stuff,’ said board member Karen Sherman. ‘This is not where any of us want to be.’ Despite the board’s palpable sadness and anger over dwindling state resources, it voted to direct Superintendent Fred Maiocco to develop a ‘reduction in force’ plan that will cut next year’s budget by $900,000, rather than dip further into the district’s reserves.
“The state’s legislative budget-writing committee has proposed $5.7 billion for K-12 spending for the next two years. Oregon school districts say they need a billion more to keep schools at the current service and staff levels next year. But the Oregon Education Association says schools could at least get by with an additional $100 million. It is a harsh reality for many local schools. Several districts face multimillion-dollar shortfalls.”
“The crowd of emotional Latino parents, students and community members at Monday night’sForest Grove School Board meeting indicated the effects of the first official staff reductions for the 2011-12 school year. Supporters of the district’s English Language Learners coordinator, Mariam Baradar, made up the bulk of a more than 150-person audience. The group was spurred by news that Baradar’s job will be eliminated next year. They were joined by dozens of Gales Creek Elementary School supporters who wore red to advocate for keeping the school open.”
“In Ashland, the Ashland School District is facing a $1.5 million budget gap. Last night, the superintendent laid out plans to close that gap, and parents and the district agree it’s something neither party is happy about. Monday night, the district laid out its plans to get under budget, which includes the loss of about 6 teachers. The district, however, says the shortfall is leaving administrators with no other option but to make some deep cuts to save money.”
Parents grasp reality of education budget shortfall

“It passed the Senate unanimously, and Wednesday the Oregon House approved a pair of funding bills for Oregon schools.  They give schools $5.7 billion for the next two years. But education lobbyists say that still leaves schools a billion dollars short of the money needed to continue at current levels.  They worry the difference will lead to teacher layoffs, shorter school years and larger classes.  The bills now head to Governor Kitzhaber’s desk. ‘When they take the money away from schools that only allows more children to go to prison because they don’t have the knowledge or the education to enable them to make the decisions to get the jobs they need,’ said Roger Peterson.”
“At a recent budget hearing, a parade of teachers and school board members offered a grim litany of what schools around Oregon face in the coming years. Middle school gym classes swollen with 50 to 60 kids in North Clackamas. One-third of Lake Oswego’s nine elementary schools slated for closure. Take your pick between lopping 550 staff positions or 40 school days in Salem-Keizer. Matt McBeth, a 16-year social studies teacher at Cascade High in Turner, said his district is doing what almost every district in the state is doing: closing and consolidating schools, enlarging class sizes and making the hard choice between cutting staff and cutting school days. He said he and his colleagues are looking at a possible third straight year straight without a pay raise.”
“With Oregon’s public school budget headed to the governor’s desk, this week school administrators across the state are preparing for deep cuts. The bottom line is school districts will have fewer teachers for the same number of kids. And that means fewer small elective classes, and bigger classes, overall. For a look at how one district is managing the changes, Rob Manning reports on the North Clackamas school district, southeast of Portland.”
“The Oregon state senate has passed a 5.7 million dollar budget for K-12 schools. This comes while school districts are creating their budgets and outlining their cuts. This budget is approximately equal to the amount of money schools received over the last two years. Chief Financial Officer, Brad Earl, says input from more than a thousand community members has helped shape the proposed budget. He says it avoids cutting days, while maintaining a variety of involvement opportunities for students. Earl does say it will almost certainly mean a reduction in personnel and a reduction in compensation.”
“If voters say no, Smith and the school board will have to adopt her ‘plan B’ budget — one that is sketched out on just one page inside the mammoth budget documents. It would require eliminating another 200 of the 2,800 positions now held by teachers, counselors, librarians and assistant principals — nearly 10 percent of those positions at most schools, Smith said. ‘Class sizes would go up, we would lose electives,’ she said, more elementary classes would have to be a mixture of two grade levels and some small schools might have to close.”


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