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Eugene: Invest in Better Education Outcomes

College & Career Readiness, School Funding | 07/03/2017

Joy Marshall
Lane County Director

As Eugene 4J School District continues planning for next year, it’s vital that students are the top priority in all decisions. Stand supporters have already had a huge impact on this process, and continue to be passionate advocates for our kids. Read on to see how you can add your voice to this vital cause.

Full Instructional Hours

Schools in the Eugene 4J School District need to meet the minimum number of instructional hours required by the state:  900 hours per year for K-8, and 990 for high school.    

Most Eugene schools are short of these standards right now. In fact, if a student attended K-12 at the schools with the least number of class hours, they would receive 7 months’ less school time than the students at schools with the most class hours – that’s almost a year less of school between kids in our own district.

Kids across town in Springfield and Bethel (and in many districts around the state) receive full instructional hours, proving this goal is entirely attainable. The fact that Oregon already has one of the shortest school years in the country only adds urgency to the cause. Many Stand members are making their voices heard on this vital issue, and The Register-Guard editorialized about it, too.

The good news is the superintendent and every school board member committed during their June 21st meeting to ensuring every student receives full instructional hours starting in the 2018-19 school year. They will need our continued support to ensure this happens, so please take a moment to email the board today at board@4j.lane.edu.

Lower Class Sizes

The other good news is that the state increased the State School Fund, so 4J will receive an additional $8 million per year for the next two school years. Now it’s vital to ensure those funds go to their intended recipients: our students.

The Superintendent and the Board have proposed some good priorities for the new funds:

  • Hiring more behavioral support staff to help provide a stable and nurturing learning environment.
  • Holding aside $1.2 million until the fall to hire staff for the biggest class sizes. Hundreds of new students show up unannounced at our schools each fall – so we cannot predict precisely how large all classes will be.  This money will allow the district to hire 12 teachers and place them where they are needed most.
  • Providing another $500,000 to lower the largest class sizes.

Stand member and 4J parent Robin Detmer testified powerfully to the School Board about her child’s class size:

“My daughter started 3rd grade with 36 kids in her class. She had always loved school and excelled but during the first few weeks in that class she started complaining about school, acting out as soon as she got home due to the high level of stress she endured in the day, and we started thinking about home school. When I went into the class to volunteer, the teacher was stretched to the limit, spending all of his time managing behaviors, trying to get kids on task. He was exhausted and stressed and so were all of the kids during those first weeks. After about a month our school was able to get a new teacher and about 1/3 of my daughter's class moved to another classroom.  I can't tell you what a difference that made! For the rest of the year she had 24-26 kids in her class and she was suddenly getting some attention at school, getting challenged, her teacher was calm and able to be more intentional with the kids when he wasn't just putting out fires all day. She started loving school again and became her old self at home, chattering excitedly about her day and what she'd learned after school, instead of acting out angrily.”

When thousands of community members weighed in during the School District’s “Vision 2020” process, lowering class sizes was the top priority for 77 percent of respondents. It’s time to make sure that no kindergartener has a class of 28 or 30, and that no 6th grader becomes lost in the back of the room all year, never to be called upon.

It is great that the board intends to use some of this $8 million infusion to reduce class sizes. But how will they use the rest of the new funds – several million dollars? The board should share those plans, too. This way, the public can be confident that every dime of these funds will be used in the best possible way for our kids.

The public spoke once, and our school officials listened. It’s time to speak again – right now. Ask the board to share its full plan for the $8 million, so we can see how the full amount will benefit our students.

Email the Board at board@4j.lane.edu.

Contact me to get involved at jmarshall@stand.org.

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