Q&A with Stand for Children - Oregon+Share
One week ago, the newly reactivated Beaverton chapter voiced a number of questions and concerns at their first chapter event. The Beaverton District has been hit hard by budget cuts, and parents want to know how best to fix a broken system.
In addition, Beaverton parents said they want to know more about PERS, the local option levy, teacher competency, and other issues that matter to the district. We’ll publish clear and comprehensive information as it surfaces, and as Stand, the Beaverton School District and the state work to uncover the best possible solutions.
We’ll answer these questions in a series of installments each Wednesday.
Q: What does OREGON spend per student? How about the Beaverton district? What is the spending per student in other states? How does Oregon compare?
A: According to EcoNorthwest, Oregon spends $9,624 per student, which is 30th in the nation and below the national average of $10,600. There is not a lot of variation from district to district because the bulk of the funding comes from the state. For example, because Portland has an open local levy, they have slightly more, per student, than Beaverton does right now.
Q: Property taxes have increased, the district is growing, why the cuts?
A: School funding is competing with rising costs of human services like Medicaid and public safety. Additionally, promises were made to pay for state employees’ retirement in the 1970s and 80s that have proven too costly for schools to sustain. It used to be that less than 10% of a district’s budget paid for the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). For many districts it is now double or triple that. As it stands now, schools don’t have many options to deal with rising retirement costs other than to cut teachers and school days.
Q: Is PERS reform a reality? Can we fix it without a lawsuit?
A: The PERS system was modified once already, in 2003, so it is a reality. What can happen this year will depend as much on political will as on the courts, although one of the Governor's proposed reforms (capping the Cost of Living Adjustment) would have to be heard by the courts. Courts around the country have found that these commitments to retired workers are constitutionally guaranteed, but they have also ruled that some modifications to these programs are legal.
Q: Is Stand a PAC? Why are membership donations not tax deductible?
A: Part of our mission is to elect leaders who are deeply committed to improving educational opportunities for children. We do this through our Political Action Committee (PAC), which is independent and non-partisan.
In addition to the PAC, Stand operates both a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) arm. Membership contributions fund the 501(c)(4) arm and are not tax deductible because they support activities like lobbying, and campaigns for ballot measures and candidates. Donations to the 501(c)(3) are tax deductible. To find out more about how Stand is funded and where these funds go, visit this blog post.
Q: How are we reaching out to large companies in the area to maximize our impact?
A: Stand for Children has excellent working relationships with NIKE and Intel. We are involving them, and their employees, in these discussions. Many of our members and leaders work for these companies or have spouses who do. Some mid-size companies, like Vernier, have been great champions for Beaverton Schools. Having said that, we always need more contacts at big and small businesses in our community! If you believe you can open doors with a local employer, either for corporate support or access to their employees, please let us know!
If you are looking for immediate resources on lobbying tips and school funding, you might want to check out the presentations from Stand’s Member Summit that was last month. Or you can check out Stand’s legislative agenda to see what we are already working on. We’ll answer the following questions next weekend:
- What will the levy fund? How can we make sure it passes? What if it passes, but not the PERS reform?
- How much will it cost the school district to run the levy in May? Is this money already allocated? Where does the money come from?
- What is our plan to persuade the 80%?
- Class size is biggest concern because studies show that educational performance improves with smaller class sizes and deteriorates with larger class sizes. How can we fix it for next year?
- What can we do as parents to ensure we have competent teachers? Can you provide more information on teacher evaluation and competency?
- How can we help support teachers now?