Accountability, transparency, capabilities
The recent "Citizen's Opinion" by Keith Steele deserves a response as you exercise your right to chart your children's educational future. Let me say we have much to be proud of in our school district; but in the interest of accountability and transparency you deserve to see the facts. Mr. Steele chose two areas where he accuses me of "hasty campaign season rhetoric" — out-of-district transfers and PERS.
WE NEED ACCOUNTABILITY WITH BUDGETS: Last week Mr. Steele said we need a $7-10 million dollar Ending Fund Balance. He says that now; but that is nothing near the way the Board budgeted for Ending Balances the past four years. The budget surplus numbers below show a different pattern. From the District's website the following are the past four years of AUDITED data comparing the Budgeted Ending Balances to the Actual Ending Balances:
2013 $730,831 $4,323,413
2014 $797,280 $4,446,831
2015 $1,519,638 $5,310,281
2016 $1,039,000 $6,196,907
The highest budget balance amount Mr. Steele voted for was an ending balance of $1,519,638. You can see we repeatedly exceeded the intended budget surplus business manager had already accounted for the full PERS liability.
WE NEED TRANSPARENCY ABOUT TRANSFERS: The second issue commented on by Mr. Steele concerns his and my opponent's decision to support Open Enrollment for out-of-district students. Due to the existing overcrowding condition the District was not required to admit anyone except special cases i.e., court ordered, homeless, etc. During the past four years they both voted in the majority to allow non-resident students to enter our schools and contribute to over-crowding. This occurred while Rosemont and Wood were over the educational capacity. These current 627 extra students are the primary cause the District built at least one primary school and talks about needing an additional high school. Because out-of-district students contribute less in tax revenue than your children, it is safe to assume it partially contributed to the fact our District average expenditure per pupil is $9,541 while the State average is $11,329 (Oregon Department of Education Report Card).
The most telling evidence of the Board's awareness, yet inaction, regarding the transfer problem is found in the February 18, 2014, school board minutes, where the majority voted to admit 200 more students (including 50 to the existing maxed out middle schools) for the coming year. The minutes read that Chairman Steele "wanted to underscore his concern of allowing students in from other districts at the same time we are building new schools to alleviate capacity constraints." My opponent also had spoken concerning the vote to admit the 200 students the next year, saying they "... need to consider the purpose it serves if this is a way to increase class sizes." Our class sizes have increased or are at or above the State average for the last reporting period (Oregon Report Card).
WE NEED GREATER CAPABILITY: Let's look at the last four years how my opponent and I have contributed to the betterment of your child's educational opportunity in Oregon. My opponent has voted four times to increase transfers to the tune of 650; we have overcrowding. Last year we saw grades 3-8 achievement declines in 5 out of 6 measurements (math, science, etc., Oregon Dept. Education Report Card) during the last State mandated testing period.
Just on the education front I developed the original proposal and led the initial research for the League of Women Voters over a two -year period to children across Oregon given Oregon's funding problems. Our school district was the basis for my overall concern about the inconsistent quality and haphazard funding that our public school children are subject to.
Let's not rest on our laurels. We can be an "exceptional" school district with an active, transparent, capable, accountable and professional Board. We can do better than business as usual! Our kids are depending on us.
Mike Taylor lives in West Linn