One of the things I know about being an advocate for kids and schools is that I am always learning and always finding new gaps in my knowledge that I need to fill. When I started teaching my educational equity courses, I had no idea that I’d also become well versed in an understanding of how public schools are funded, federal and local tax systems, local political structures and figures, etc.
The current area of my reading and knowledge gathering is on teacher’s unions and the media’s scapegoating of teachers in the ongoing discussion of school reform. So, when I stumbled upon this article about Governor Kitzhaber’s recent speech declaring a need for PERS reform to fix schools, my ears perked up and a flow of questions began to form. I still don’t have all of the answers, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask the questions even if I don’t know where they’ll lead. That’s part of learning.
Please take a look at this recent article about Kitzhaber’s plan, and let me know what you think. If you have additional knowledge about this retirement system and the governor’s ideas, I’d love to hear them.
The one quote that really bothers me is the following:
“For that extraordinary increase in investment [increases in the amount being paid in to PERS],” Kitzhaber said, “we will not see lower class sizes, we will not add days to the school year, we will not be able to buy back programs like art and like vocational studies.”
Is the purpose of PERS to lower class size or to add school days to the academic calendar? Is the purpose of the union to protect art and vocational studies? No. It’s not. It is to protect teachers for a variety of reasons and to make sure they receive benefits to compensate their public service. Maybe there are reforms that make sense, but is should a reform of teacher benefits really be at the forefront of discussions about how to adequately fund our public schools?
Again, I’d love to hear more thoughts on this, dear students and readers.