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The Minnis Plan for Schools: Not Good Enough.

This is the first post of two on stable school funding by Representative Larry Galizio.


In a recent editorial (Wrap it up, June 19, 2005) suggesting a “to do” list for the 73rd Legislative Assembly, the Oregonian states that HB 3460, the cleverly-titled K-12 school funding plan from Karen Minnis, “deserves a careful, serious look…” I couldn’t agree more.

As a freshman legislator and member of the House Revenue Committee who heard public testimony on the original proposal, I have had the opportunity to track its changes and journey through the chamber.

The fact is, this scheme is as much a plan for the stable funding of Oregon schools as George W. Bush’s “Clear skies” initiative fosters clean air. The Minnis plan relies on such a shaky and unstable foundation that a more apt name would be “The Earthquake Plan.”

For starters, the plan’s raison d’etre, according to its proponents, is stable school funding. Despite this, the plan’s funding mechanism, the personal income tax, is the most volatile element of our tax code. As the Oregonian’s editorial pages have articulated numerous times, Oregon’s volatile and unstable tax structure results from an over reliance on the personal income tax. Yet the Speaker’s “stability plan” proffers this most unstable and erratic funding mechanism as its foundation. This structural flaw alone constitutes sufficient grounds to reject the plan.

Secondly, the bill completely severs the relationship between Oregon’s business community and investment in Oregon’s public schools. By eliminating entirely corporate tax support for Oregon’s next generation, the funding scheme does a disservice to our business community and sends the wrong message to all Oregonians. The vast majority of Oregon’s business community understands the link between investment in public education, and a productive and skilled workforce. The Minnis plan, by cutting off corporate support of schools, divides two Oregon communities that are interdependent and should remain mutually supportive.

Third, the plan essentially mandates continued disinvestment in Oregon’s schools. The Minnis scheme initially proposed 50% of personal income taxes for schools, but even political allies of the Speaker couldn’t defend this number. Placed in historical context, the Minnis proposal would cut school funding to the lowest level its ever been in the post-WW II era. The shortened school year, some of the largest classroom sizes in the nation, the loss of music and drama, and the elimination of over one thousand teaching positions, have all taken place with a 52% of personal income tax figure. The Minnis plan would cut that to 51%.

Even if you believe that using the personal income tax as the sole source of school funding is viable, stability is a necessary but insufficient condition of an efficacious school funding policy. Put simply, stable inadequacy is neither practical nor desirable.

Finally, I would urge all citizens concerned with our K-12 public school funding, to study HB 3498, a school funding policy that contains true stability, adequacy, and predictability.

June 20, 2005 by Larry Galizio
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Rep. Galizio--

You obviously make WAY too much sense. Who can argue with stability, adequacy and predictability?

Thanks for pushing forward on this and all the other issues you've put your time and energy into. I'm proud to be your colleague.

Posted by: Rep. Peter Buckley | Jun 20, 2005 8:41:37 PM

A quick question:

Charter and private schools spend significantly less per student with equal (if not better) results.

Why are their models never considered when discussing public school funding?

Posted by: Chris McMullen | Jun 21, 2005 1:50:00 PM

Rep. Galizio describes the issue well. Before Measure 5 in 1990 Oregon's well funded school districts in Portland, Eugene and elsewhere were able to provide a school program at roughly the level of the Quality Education Model (QEM). Because schools were paid for primarily by local property taxes, some districts were badly underfunded in that time, leaving a few students with a short school year and a paucity of classes and programs.

With Measure 5 came legislative mandates for equalization that could have led to all our students attending QEM level schools to the students' benefit. But that was not to be. Instead, the lowest funded schools found their budgets improve somewhat while the well funded districts lost teachers, administrators, and whole courses of study. I became involved in politics after the Eugene 4J School District laid off one hundred teachers in 1993. The trend since then for the formerly well funded districts has been a slow, discouraging ratcheting down of their programs and a similar increase in class size to the present day. The formerly low funded districts actually improved for a few years until the generally downward trend in school funding caught up with them. In the last several years all school districts receiving funds from the State School Fund (nearly all of them) have lost programs.

The Speakers "Instability Plan" (I like to call things by a name that describes them accurately - ever notice how Republican bill labels often are the opposite of the real effect of the bill?) is more of the same. It establishes an inadequate base setting in stone the mediocre or worse budgets we have had and then continuing the ratchet down. It is a subset of the disastrous Doyle Bucket Plan that would have had the same effect on the entire state budget.

Rather than being something new the Instability Plan is a continuation of the trends of the last 12 years. It establishes a low base and cuts from there.

Bravo, Rep. Galizio, for your criticism of this education funding cap. It is bad for kids and bad for Oregon's future.

Posted by: Rep Phil Barnhart | Jun 21, 2005 4:00:26 PM

Representative Galizio, you talk about historical context but provide only a little.

To what do you attribute the historic trend in the state of Oregon to starve the public schools of adequate funds?

It continues whether Democrats or Republicans are governors, whether we are experiencing prosperity or recession.

It's very popular. Newspapers increase their sales, apparently, by thinking up some more baseless attacks on schoolteachers.


Posted by: Michael Meo | Jun 21, 2005 6:08:23 PM

D's and Rino's alike should say it like it is...We need more $$$ for schools and a larger tax increase than M30 is the only way. It takes guts to say it---then do it!

Oh by the way, guts are not a commodity found @ the capitol.

Oh and it would also be stupid, political suicide to offer another M30 type increase, right?


Posted by: rrrino | Jun 22, 2005 6:18:59 AM

Thank you Rep Galizio for a succinct and thoughtful recap of Rep Minnis's plan. I completely agree. Of course our goal is stable funding - but we cannot be lured to inadequate yet "stable" funding. That is a compromise that we cannot make.

I'm interested to hear more about the proposal that I have heard about that proposes stable funding based on 80% of QEM. Is that a reality (in the works)? Is this the HB 3460 that you mention? Can you tell me the easiest way to be able to look into particular bills such as that?

To get to that level though, our public discussion and decisions (in my opinion) will need to address: a possible sales tax; why corporations pay less than they did 30+ years ago; why the $10 corp minimum tax. I realize that these are hard political issues - but they seem absolutely critical to me. Please continue to have the political courage to fight this fight.

As for the charter/private question from Chris M. I'm not sure I would agree that they "spend significantly less per student with equal (if not better) results." I'm guessing that that statement is true in some circumstance, but across the board? Also, one major factor in that is that private/charter schools get to pick and filter who attends their school. No special ed; no "problem" kids; they pick a homogenous (however that particular school defines it) group. I think one of the strengths of public schools are their diversity. My daughter has a classmate who has downs syndrome. His education, including a para-educator with him, costs more than my daughter's - and, she has learned as much, or more, from being his friend and classmate than in many of her other, more formal lessons. This is more like the world our there where we don't always (rarely) get to choose who we work with, interact with, learn with, etc. I don't think it is an apples to apples comparison.

Posted by: Doug Wells | Jun 22, 2005 10:07:20 AM

Bill referred back to Committee. Strike up the band for a small victory. YAY!

Posted by: Yay! | Jun 22, 2005 12:15:00 PM

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