HB 3498 will Provide Stability and Excellence for Oregon's Schools.

In my most recent post on this blog I put forth a brief critique of the Minnis K-12 school funding plan. In recent days, it's been encouraging to witness the increased scrutiny this funding scheme has received in lieu of the early coverage that was both superficial and deferential.

And while it's heartening to observe this flawed plan lost support in the house, we remain without a substantive K-12 education framework in place.

Despite media claims that the Minnis scheme is the only K-12 school funding proposal that's been offered, there have been a whole host of viable policy proposals offered this session by Oregon House Democrats. Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled House leadership decides which bills receive hearings and which won't. More than one viable school funding plan sits in the dark in Salem - never to see the light of day; at least not in this session.

HB 3498, a bill co-sponsored by 22 House Democrats, which currently sits in the House Revenue Committee, is illustrative of the Democratic school funding alternatives that have been crafted. What follows is a description of the bill and some of its rationale.

HB 3498 emerges from the premise that funding stability is a necessary but insufficient condition of sound education-funding policy. Stable inadequacy is neither sufficient nor desirable - a fundamental flaw of the Minnis scheme. In contrast, HB 3498 seeks stability, excellence, and predictability for Oregon's K-12 system of public schools.

HB 3498 adopts a new funding standard for K-12 education and establishes an Education Stability Program that sets both a floor and a ceiling for future school budgets. Under the program, the Superintendent of Public Instruction would calculate an amount that's not higher than the Quality Education Model standard - which the legislature enacted in 2001 - and not lower than 80% of that standard. Then, on or before January 15th of every legislative session, beginning in 2007, the Superintendent would submit that figure to the legislature, and the legislature would appropriate the specified amount of money to the State School's Fund for distribution to Oregon's school districts.

The Superintendent would base the calculation on the parameters of the 2004 Quality Education Model. Thus, rather than an arbitrary cap (that fails to take into account health care costs, a recession, and federal education mandates such as No Child Left Behind etc.), the bill creates a funding floor - thus providing for a full school year and reasonable class sizes for Oregon public schools. Finally, the bill's framework includes automatic structural adjustments to account for changes in school population and key cost drivers such as health care.

The plan avoids use of the volatile personal income tax as the structural underpinning for a "stability plan." It maintains the critical link between Oregon's corporations and public education, as enlightened corporate leaders in Oregon recognize the interdependence between business' support of public education and a thriving state economy. HB 3498, unlike the Minnis scheme, continues the use of corporate tax dollars to fund Oregon schools. Finally, the House Democratic approach to school investment focuses on performance standards - as opposed to an arbitrary percentage of the personal income tax in any given two-year period.

Regardless of which particular K-12 school funding policy one supports, Oregonians deserve a thorough examination and substantive debate that includes both the Minnis plan as well as the Democratic alternative. We're poised to chart a course for school funding that has enormous implications for the future of this state. We believe that it is our responsibility as legislators to have a deliberative discussion on the merits of competing policy proposals.

We sincerely hope that the Republican leadership will give legislators and Oregonians the opportunity to consider HB 3498 this session. Let's judge all viable plans on their respective merits.

To borrow a phrase from the Republican leadership at the federal level, "All we're asking for is an up-or-down vote."

June 23, 2005 by Larry Galizio
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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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Economic Optimism

Representative Larry Galizio is a first term legislator representing Tigard, King City and Bull Mountain.Galizio

There is an important distinction between skepticism and pessimism and I’m concerned that too many of my fellow legislators fail to appreciate its significance. While a skeptic is inclined to question the truth of so-called “conventional wisdom” and analyzes information critically, a pessimist expects the worst outcome and takes the worst view of conditions and situations.

In my four months as a legislator—in floor debates, committee hearings, and discussions in the hallways and over lunch—I’m struck by the frequency and volume of criticism directed at Oregon’s economy.

I often hear my colleagues asserting that: “Oregon has a lousy business climate,” “Oregon is losing jobs and people to other states,” and that “Oregon just isn’t business-friendly.”

The constant chorus of criticism is factually inaccurate, counterproductive, and damaging to the economic well-being of our state.

Yes, Oregon’s economy faces significant challenges: rising regional energy prices, a possible housing bubble, a need for greater industrial diversity, and comparatively high unemployment. Nevertheless, Oregon’s economic record of the past fifteen years belies claims such as one uttered recently on the House floor asserting that “Oregon has the worst economy in the nation.”

Although it’s no secret that politicians are prone to exaggeration, this type of economic pessimism concerning Oregon simply isn’t based on fact. More importantly, such economic hopelessness perpetuates this myth, thereby making Oregon less attractive to venture capitalists and business leaders considering locating here.

Our most recent forecast by the Office of Economic Analysis found Oregon’s job growth ahead of most states and up by 4% in the first quarter of 2005. Despite the oft-heard mantra that Oregon is somehow unfriendly to business, our economy grew faster than nearly every other state in the 1990’s with 30,000 new businesses and 415,000 new jobs created. Similarly, between 1995 and 2000, Oregon had the fastest growing Gross State Product in the nation. Finally, while the pessimists claim that people are leaving Oregon in droves. In the 1990’s, Oregon’s population grew by 650,000, a 23% increase and eleventh fastest in the US.

People are certainly free to choose their respective outlook on life. However, the perspectives and rhetoric of elected officials should meet a higher standard. Our words affect more than a small circle of friends and acquaintances. As public officials, we have a responsibility to support our claims with evidence, and to temper ideology with research and data.

Oregon legislators needn’t view Oregon’s economy through rose-colored glasses. We should, however, remove the dark tint of pessimism and view Oregon’s economy through objective research and historical analysis. Equally important, we should recognize our economic strengths and promote them vigorously at home and abroad.

May 26, 2005 by Larry Galizio
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