Friday, September 25, 2015

Jury Rules for Former U. of Oregon Police Officer in Whistle-Blower Case

 The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 25th, 2015

A federal jury has awarded $755,000 to a former public-safety officer at the University of Oregon after determining that his supervisors at the institution retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on mismanagement and a juvenile culture in the campus’s police department. The Oregonian reports that the jury found the university’s police chief, Carolyn McDermed, and a lieutenant, Brandon Lebrecht, had retaliated against James Cleavenger by firing him and seeking to defame him.
“This is a victory for every honest police officer,” Jason Kafoury, a lawyer representing Mr. Cleavenger, told the newspaper. “The jury today honored and enforced an officer’s right to speak freely on matters of public concern, regardless of whether their superiors approve.”

Portland State University joins massive study of cities' weather weaknesses

September 23rd, 2015

Several Portland State University researchers have joined an international effort to identify cities' vulnerability to climate change-related weather extremes, and find ways to fix them.
Portland will be one of nine cities in the U.S. and Latin America participating in the five-year project, known as the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. Researchers will use a $12 million National Science Foundation grant to pay for their work.
They'll mine data and produce models to identify cities' weaknesses and strengths. Then they'll work with public officials to assess the resilience of roads, buildings, bridges and the like to extreme weather.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chronicle of Higher Education questions standing of UO research

Register Guard
September 18th, 2015

Oregon’s top public universities are touting their prowess in drawing research dollars to the state — even as an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education casts doubt on Oregon’s ability to play in the big leagues of national research universities.
Oregon State University reported raking in a record $308.9 million in research dollars during the last school year.
University of Oregon tallied $114.6 million last year, down from an all time high of $135.6 million in 2009 and $115.3 million in 2008.
The totals of the two public universities aren’t directly comparable because OSU has agriculture and engineering programs, which draw additional grant dollars over the UO’s mix of programs.
Still, the UO has been ringing alarm bells about the decline in its research capacity. This month those bells rang out nationally when the Chronicle published an extensive article entitled, “An Academic Reputation at Risk:

States with strong unions are states with safer workers

Keep Oregon Working
September 18th, 2015

In states with strong unions, the standard of living for all workers, not just union members, is raised. And those improved standards aren’t just limited to wages and benefits: States with strong unions also have safer workplaces.
Working in dangerous places can lead to injury, illness and even death. This is especially true when corporate profits are put above workers’ wellbeing. To foster safe workplaces, unions invest significant resources in safety trainings and encourage workers to negotiate for appropriate staffing levels and equipment.
Highly trained workers are not only safe from the potential dangers that their jobs might bring, but they’re also attractive to business owners. The New York Times points out that rather than take advantage of cheap labor costs, contractors see the benefits of employing trained and certified workers.
“It’s a business bottom-­line issue… (anti-worker laws) compromise my quality, my competitiveness. The unions are my partner. They’re almost like a screening agency.”
– Bill Kennedy, president of Rock Road Companies, WI
Most importantly, when workers can successfully advocate for safer working conditions, fewer people die on the job. Research has shown that workplace fatalities are significantly lower in states where more workers are unionized.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sponsor may drop 'right to work' union measure in Oregon after adverse legal ruling

September 15th, 2015

The sponsor of a proposed ballot measure aimed at making union dues voluntary for public employees may well drop the initiative after receiving a politically unpalatable ballot title.
Portland attorney Jill Gibson said she is leaning toward abandoning the proposal after the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a ballot description that will make the measure harder to sell to voters.
The measure, which is being closely watched by the state's unions, would end the state law requiring public employees represented by union contracts to pay dues regardless of whether they join. Instead, dues would be voluntary for non-members.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Academic Reputation at Risk

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 15th, 2015

The duck is always up in everybody’s face.
He shoves. He body-slams.
He demands to be noticed.
The University of Oregon’s mascot, a Donald Duck knockoff in yellow and green, is a pure distillation of the university’s iconic brand. This is a place, the duck assures us, of unapologetically splashy sports and irrepressible good times. The image sells remarkably well to undergraduates, whose numbers have increased by 25 percent in the past decade alone.
What has been more difficult, however, is for Oregon to remain competitive with the top-­tier research universities that it has for decades described as its peers. Save a few marquee programs, Oregon often fails now to measure up to higher education’s heavy hitters, which bring in more federal grants, produce more doctoral degrees, and boast higher graduation rates.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seattle teachers strike enters 2nd day; negotiations planned

September 10th, 2015

Teacher Janine Magidman has lived and worked in Seattle for years, but she worries her newer colleagues will be priced out because their salaries haven't kept up with expenses as the tech boom makes the city increasingly unaffordable.
Magidman was one of thousands wearing red shirts and holding signs as Seattle teachers went on strike for the first time in 30 years. The walkout began Wednesday, on what was supposed to be the first day of school, and continued Thursday as the two sides remained split over teacher pay.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Portland teachers feel classroom environment is unsafe, according to union survey

September 1st, 2015

About 34 percent of Portland teachers who took a recent survey feel their school environment is unsafe, according to the Portland Association of Teachers union.
The union presented key survey results to the school board at its Tuesday night meeting. About 1,000 of the union's members responded to the survey, which was distributed online this spring.
Suzanne Cohen, union vice-president, said the survey was in light of an increase in reports of teacher injuries and organized by a union committee.
The survey's main conclusions were that the district was not effectively implementing new discipline practices and failing to provide adequate special education services, Cohen said.
Superintendent Carole Smith has named reducing exclusionary discipline, or the number of suspensions and expulsions, as one of the district's key priorities. The goal is reduce overall exclusionary discipline by 50 percent and disproportionate discipline by 50 percent by June 2016. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oregon Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden to retire

August 25th, 2015

Nancy Golden, who for two years has overseen public education in Oregon from preschool to college, will retire in two weeks, Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday.
Lindsey Capps, 40, a former teachers union leader who is Brown's education adviser, will succeed Golden, 64, in an interim capacity while continuing as adviser to the governor, Brown's office said. Capps previously served as Golden's chief of staff for seven months.
Golden, a former superintendent of Springfield schools with decades of experience in Oregon public education, was chosen by former Gov. John Kitzhaber to serve as Oregon's second chief education officer.
Golden succeeded Rudy Crew, who became a lightning rod for criticism of his leadership style and the job itself. He quit after slightly more than a year to take a college presidency in New York City.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

University of Oregon faculty union settles contract, gets pay raises; classified workers say they’re preparing to strike

Register Guard
August 20th, 2015

The United Academics faculty
union at the University of Oregon decided to keep its eyes on the prize of a better, donor-funded university — and
so has tentatively settled a new three-year contract, well ahead of the start of school.
“It takes away a potentially contentious issue as our new university president embarks on the important work of raising some big bucks to support our academic mission,” said Michael Dreiling, union president and associate professor of sociology.
In the meantime, negotiations with the Service Employees International Union that represents the UO’s 1,700 classified workers are at an impasse — and resolution appears, for the moment, out of reach.
The faculty contract, which will be up for a ratification vote in early October, calls for a 3.5 percent total jump in cost-of-living raises over the next three years and a $650 lump sum payment to each full-time faculty member this November. Also, the UO will set aside an additional amount of money, equal to 2.25 percent of the total salary pool, to be distributed as merit raises in each of the last two years.
This is the second contract negotiated by United Academics, which formed at the university in 2013. The union represents 1,800 tenured and nontenured faculty.

For-profit colleges often leave Oregon students with debt, worthless credits

Portland Tribune
August 20th, 2015

Fantasia Spruill admits right up front that she’s never been the best of students.
She dropped out her junior year at Parkrose High School, when she was 16. Her father had a stroke, her mother went to prison. For awhile, Spruill and her 14-year-old sister were homeless.
But Spruill is smart, and she knows it. “A superstar,” according to a local guidance counselor who helps low-income students get into college. At 17, Spruill, hoping short-term to become a medical assistant, and long-term an obstetrician, was accepted into for-profit Heald College in downtown Portland.

Feds fault UO for releasing alleged gang-rape victim's therapy records without her consent

August 20th, 2015

The U.S. Education Department has slammed the University of Oregon in a "letter of guidance" for releasing an alleged gang-rape victim's confidential therapy records to UO lawyers without her consent.
The six-page letter, issued this week after repeated inquiries by The Oregonian/Oregonlive and members of Oregon's congressional delegation, said that institutions involved in litigation with a student should not share the patient's medical records without written consent or a court order.
In effect, the letter from Kathleen Styles, the agency's chief privacy officer, steamrolls a UO Counseling Center confidentiality policy weakened in March by center director Shelly Kerr, clinical director Joseph DeWitz and university lawyer Samantha Hill. The Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners is investigating four UO psychologists, including the two center managers, after Kerr secretly gave the woman's records to university attorneys in December without seeking her permission or notifying her therapist, Jennifer Morlok.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Oregon must detoxify PERS

Register Guard
August 16th, 2015

The financial hydraulics of Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System are simple: If more money goes out, more must come in — and if less money comes from one source, more must come from another. Similar principles govern the politics of the pension system: If nothing is done to control the cost of PERS, public frustration will be directed at other targets.
State and local governments will see both types of cause-and-effect sequence soon. The courts and the pension system’s actuaries have delivered a double whammy that will increase the cost of PERS by $1.7 billion per biennium starting in 2017. To soften the blow, the initial cost will be reduced, resulting in even larger increases later on. As pension costs soak up revenues, public resentment will rise: Voters won’t be easily persuaded to pay more for public services if they have reason to believe that PERS is first in line for every tax dollar.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How Social Workers Unionized at Portland's Janus Youth Project

Labor Notes
August 10th, 2015

What happens when social workers grow tired of poor working conditions and poverty wages? At my workplace, the nonprofit Janus Youth Programs, we formed a union. Now the 50 of us have a voice to improve our working conditions and our clients’ living conditions.
My co-workers and I care for children in publicly funded—but privately operated—residential and re-entry treatment centers. Our job titles include case managers, direct care staff, and relief staff. Together we work with adolescents and families who have experienced sexual abuse, trauma, and often poverty.
Direct care and relief staff spend the majority of our shifts making sure our clients’ basic needs are met. We prepare meals, get clients to and from school and appointments, pass medication, and are, for many clients, the most consistent positive influence in their lives.
But just like in other privatized industries, our working conditions have deteriorated and wages have been stagnant.
We haven’t had significant raises since the 1990s. Many of my co-workers, even those who’ve worked at Janus Youth Programs for close to a decade, are making just over Oregon’s minimum wage. Meanwhile upper management has continued to enjoy its perks.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Christian university fires professor for getting pregnant out of wedlock, suit claims

August 4th, 2015

An assistant professor who says she was fired after she told supervisors at Northwest Christian University that she was pregnant out of wedlock filed a $650,000 lawsuit Tuesday against her former employer.
The supervisors gave Coty Richardson an ultimatum: Get married immediately or declare her pregnancy a mistake and sever links with her romantic partner of 12 years, the suit alleges.
Richardson is expecting a baby in November, according to the suit filed in Lane County Circuit Court.
A spokeswoman for the small liberal arts university in Eugene didn't immediately return a request seeking comment.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The future of college? Portland sees growth in alternative higher education models

Portland Tribune
August 4th, 2015

Caitlyn McCucheon was three years into an athletic training program at Concordia University when she started actually spending time as an athletic trainer.
“It was pretty much sitting around doing things I wasn’t expecting,” McCucheon says. “I thought it was going to be active.”
She decided to change her major for her senior year, leading to a fifth year at the private university and three years wasted on a different path.
“I know I’m passionate in helping, but I don’t know what I want to do,” McCucheon says.

Monday, August 3, 2015

UO breaks records, raising $827 million toward its $2 billion goal

August 3rd, 2015

Donors gave more than $214 million to the University of Oregon's $2 billion capital campaign during the fiscal year ended June 30. Fundraisers expect an extra boost as new UO President Michael Schill spearheads the campaign, which has raised $827 million toward its goal.Gifts and pledges raised in fiscal 2015 exceeded the previous year's total by 86 percent, becoming the second highest annual amount in the school's history.
Schill took office July 1, arriving with a fundraising track record from his law-dean posts at the University of Chicago and other schools. He has already made two fundraising trips to Portland and one to Los Angeles. Next, Schill plans  to travel across Oregon meeting alumni.

Friday, July 31, 2015

PERS Board lowers pension investment return assumption; increased costs coming

July 31st, 2015

The board of Oregon's public pension fund voted Friday to reduce its key actuarial assumption – the system's assumed earnings rate - from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent to reflect lower expected returns from its investments.
That's bad news for public employers and taxpayers. Investment have historically provided more than 70 percent of the cash needed to fund retirement benefits. The reduced assumption will increase the system's funding deficit and require higher contributions from public employers and taxpayers. It also means a small reduction in benefits for some older PERS members.
The system's actuary, Milliman Inc. has also adopted new mortality assumptions to reflect the fact that retirees are living longer, a change that will put more upward pressure on system costs.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Changes to tuition act prove doubters right

Register Guard
July 30th, 2015

A significant bipartisan majority of the 2013 Legislative Assembly voted to enact House Bill 2787, which became known as the “Tuition Equity Act.” It established in-state tuition eligibility for students who demonstrate the intent to become United States citizens and who met certain previous attendance requirements in schools both in Oregon and other U.S. states and territories.
The Legislative Fiscal Office’s report on the bill estimated that only 38 undocumented alien students would access the opportunity to pay in-state tuition to attend an Oregon university during the 2013-15 budget period, and that 80 students would participate during the 2015-17 biennium. The Act didn’t affect Oregon community colleges, because they do not have residency requirements. 

Feds find UO grad student falsified research data, voiding results of four studies

July 30th, 2015

A former University of Oregon professor who received millions of dollars in federal grant money confirmed Wednesday that he's requested retractions of four research papers published in scholarly journals because one of his graduate students fabricated data.
Nationally known brain researcher Edward Awh, who recently moved to the University of Chicago, declined to say why David E. Anderson, the UO grad student, knowingly falsified research results.
The University of Oregon investigated the misconduct and reported it to federal officials. The U.S. Office of Research Integrity published a notice saying the UO grad student engaged in misconduct in research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institutes of Health. Grants listed in the notice amounted to $5.47 million over eight years. The notice said that Anderson would be subject to intensive supervision when conducting any further research.'

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Encouraging start for UO

Register Guard
July 29th, 2015

The $2 billion goal for the University of Oregon’s fundraising campaign is as ambitious today as it was when it was announced last October. Donations from alumni and other supporters will have to increase from their current near-record amounts if the target is to be reached before the end of the decade. But there are encouraging signs of momentum that, if it can be sustained, would bring the target within reach.
During the fiscal year that ended July 30, the UO raised $214 million in donations. That record is eclipsed only by the $277 million raised in 2008, when Phil Knight established the $100 million UO Athletic Legacy Fund that helped finance construction of the Matt Knight Arena.
Last year’s total was an 86 percent increase over the amount raised the year before, and while it included several donations of substantial size — $50 million from UO Trustee Connie Ballmer and her husband, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and $10 million from Don and Willie Tykeson of Eugene — the money came from relatively diverse sources. The UO is showing that it can depend on more than one big donor.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Community College Funding Up, Possible Formula Changes Coming

July 24th, 2015

Oregon’s community colleges are seeing double-digit funding increases for the upcoming school year, thanks to a bump in state spending and a rise in property tax collections. But it may be the last time colleges receive funding under the current funding formula.
Lawmakers agreed to spend nearly $550 million on community colleges over the next two years. That’s up nearly $80 million, over the previous biennium. 
Oregon colleges also benefited from a $33 million increase in local property taxes.
The largest college in Oregon, Portland Community College, saw combined local and state funding jump more than 20 percent. Central Oregon, Chemeketa and Oregon Coast community colleges saw similar increases. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

UO faculty compensation competitive with other public AAUs, reaches target set by senate

Around the O
July 24th, 2015

The University of Oregon has achieved an ambitious goal set by the University Senate to bring total faculty salary and benefits in line with average faculty compensation at similar top public research universities.
Recent data released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shows that average UO compensation for tenure-related faculty is 99.3 percent of the average compensation of public Association of American Universities (AAU) peers in 2015. The number is 106.4 percent when adjusted for cost of living.
“The UO has significantly invested in faculty salaries over the last few years,” said Jamie Moffitt, vice president for finance and administration. “When combined with our very generous compensation package, including health care and retirement, total compensation is in line with our peer AAU public institutions.”

A test of ‘free’ tuition

Register Guard
July 24th, 2015

If Oregon is serious about its goal of having 80 percent of high-school graduates earn a two- or four-year college degree by 2025, and if the state intends for its citizens to be prepared for well-paid jobs requiring training and skills, the doors to community colleges will need to be opened as wide as possible. On Monday Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that should make it easier for students to afford a community college education — though whether it’s the fairest and most effective approach will remain in doubt until after it’s tried.
Senate Bill 81, sponsored by Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, creates the Oregon Promise program, which is intended to provide “free” community college tuition for 4,000 to 6,000 students. The quotation marks are needed because the tuition wouldn’t really be free — a $10 million state appropriation would pay it. And even those students who qualify for the tuition subsidy would have to find ways to pay the other significant costs of attending community colleges.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Here are the bills that could make an impact on education in Oregon

The Statesman Journal
July 8th, 2015

Some lawmakers say it's the most important topic in the legislature.
And with the amount of funds, the policies and the legislation devoted to education, it's also among the most highly-debated issues at the Oregon State Capitol during the 2015 session.
Few people argue that schools need less money and less attention. But many bills focused on giving Oregon's education system, the students and their educators the support and resources they need were at the heart of much of the 2015 session's discourse.
Few would know better than the chairs of the Senate and House committees on education, Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, and Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay.
"Overall I think education got a highlight in this session," said Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, who chaired the Senate committee on education. "It was a pretty productive year on both the House and Senate side."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our Opinion: Oregon Promise doesn't go far enough

Portland Tribune
July 16th, 2015

When it comes to higher education, Oregon has a problem.
When the Oregon Education Investment Board launched the 40-40-20 plan, it was ambitious, to say the least. It aimed for 40 percent of Oregonians to have a baccalaureate degree (or higher), 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or certification in a skilled occupation, and the remaining 20 percent to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent — all by 2025.
Since its launch, we’ve seen Oregon high school graduation rates drop to the lowest level in the nation. That’s dead last in the United States.
Once students do graduate from high school (or earn equivalent certification), then they face high tuition rates for college. In-state tuition and fees for both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon are approaching $10,000 per year. When you add on housing and other expenses, higher education becomes something that only a select few can afford — without taking on a crushing amount of student debt.

Oregon To Give Public Universities More Money Next Year

July 9th, 2015

All seven of Oregon’s public universities are poised to get substantially more state money over the next two years. In preliminary figures released Wednesday, some universities stand to get bigger increases than others. 
Western Oregon University would get a 28 percent funding boost. Portland State is close behind, with a possible 25 percent bump. 
Oregon State University would get the smallest boost - just 13 percent. But it also gets the most overall state funding of any university, topping $100 million. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Free Community College Catches On

Inside Higher Ed
July 9th, 2015

President Obama’s push for free community college has yet to be shunted aside by the debt-free college ideas his aspiring Democratic successors are talking up.
Oregon now is poised to follow Tennessee as the second state with a plan on the books to provide free two-year college. And Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced bills Wednesday that seek to make Obama’s federal proposal a reality. The proposed legislation lacks any Republican support, however, so the bills are unlikely to go anywhere.
Yet the Oregon Promise, which the Legislature passed last week and which Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, is expected to sign, is an indication that the concept of free community college has some momentum.
Mark Hass, a Democratic state senator in Oregon, proposed the legislation. It’s a last-dollar plan, which means the state will spend $10 million a year to fill in the tuition gaps that state and federal aid don’t cover.

David Sarasohn: A good session for higher education, but more work remains

July 18th, 2015

Even for a year that started with the Ducks getting drilled in the national championship game, 2015 has signs of a good year for Oregon higher education. With the overall 2015-2017 state budget up by 11 percent, state support for its universities went up by more than 22 percent and for community colleges by 18 percent, both numbers unseen for at least two decades. The Legislature also considerably increased funding for the state Opportunity Grants scholarship program and sizably funded higher ed construction. It's a major investment in Oregon's colleges and universities, the first actual cash-based support for the state's proclaimed 40-40-20 goal, a significant effort to slow our tuition levels from shooting upward like illegal fireworks.
It's enough to haul out the pompoms left from the championship game and give three cheers for the Legislature.

Governor signs community college tuition waiver bill

Statesman Journal
July 17th, 2015

Hood River’s Columbia Gorge Community College provided an appropriate location for Gov. Kate Brown’s ceremonial signing of a bill that will provide a tuition waiver for qualifying community college students.
Brown was joined by Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, who advocated for lowering tuition at Oregon’s community colleges and universities during the 2015 session. Johnson co-sponsored the legislation, known as the Oregon Promise initiative, with Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, and Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, according to a press release from Johnson’s office.
The bill allocates $10 million in tuition waivers for students who qualify for the program, which will go into effect July 1, 2016, for courses during the 2016-17 academic year. As a “last dollar” program, students who qualify must first have applied for federal student aid and accepted all available federal financial aid. Other qualifications include having received a high school diploma or GED within the last six months, resided in Oregon for 12 months prior to enrolling and earned a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better in high school.

Community college tuition: Kate Brown will sign law offering waivers

July 16th, 2015

Legislation on community college tuition that's captured the nation's fancy — offering waivers to some needy students as soon as next year — will receive Gov. Kate Brown's signature Friday, the governor's office has announced.
Brown will sign Senate Bill 81 as part of a ceremony at Columbia Gorge Community College's Indian Creek campus in Hood River. It's part of a four-stop tour of the community that also includes remarks at a business boosters brunch and tours of two local businesses.
Approval of SB 81, passed in the waning days of this year's legislative session, was widely expected.

Sylvia Kelley becomes PCC interim president -- Jeremy Brown's departure still unexplained

July17th, 2015

Sylvia Kelley, an experienced academic administrator, will serve as Portland Community College's interim president while trustees conduct a national search for the school's next leader.
PCC announced Thursday that the interim post would go to Kelley, who has served as acting president of Oregon's biggest post-secondary institution since May 18, when President Jeremy Brown was ousted.
Trustees still haven't explained why they cut ties with Brown, who left with a $300,000 severance package. PCC's elected Board of Directors picked Brown in April 2013 to head the community college with almost 90,000 full- and part-time students. The nuclear-physicist-turned-administrator had been booted in September 2012 from his job as president of Dowling College, a struggling four-year Long Island school with fewer than 4,000 students.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Community college tuition waiver bill moves forward

Statesman Journal
June 30th, 2015

A year from now, recent Oregon high school graduates who maintain a 2.5 GPA, and who accept available state and federal grants, could be eligible for a tuition waiver at an Oregon community college.
A bill that passed the Joint Committee on Ways and Means on Monday would allow qualifying students to receive a waiver of their tuition through the Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC).
The original language of SB 81 struck discord among community college leaders and associations, who contended that the bill was impractical because there was not enough infrastructure or funding to serve the additional students the program would bring in.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Senate OKs immigrant student aid bill

Register Guard
June 29th, 2015

Some Oregon students living in the United States without legal permission could qualify for state financial aid under a measure advanced by the state Senate Thursday, despite criticism that the state can’t afford the additional grants.
Portland Democratic Sen. Michael Dembrow, the bill sponsor, said it creates a path to college for students who already are part of the state’s education system.
“Against great odds, they’ve done what it takes to get through high school, and are the first in their family to attempt higher education. They are exactly the kind of kids we should be investing in,” Dembrow said.
Opponents have argued that the grant program is already under­funded and doesn’t meet the needs of resident students.
An analysis from the non­partisan Legislative Fiscal Office said about 1,000 additional students every year could qualify for state aid under the bill. It concluded that without additional funds to the grant program, the proposal could make the awards slightly more competitive and possibly even skew the grants toward the new student population.

Governor showed courage in signing test opt-out bill (OPINION)

June 26th, 2015

Gov. Kate Brown showed great leadership this week when she signed important legislation to create the Student Assessment Bill of Rights, which will engage students in their own learning. House Bill 2655 protects and expands the rights of our students and their parents as we all try to navigate the educational waters, now muddied not just by hours — but days upon days — of standardized tests each year (twice as many now as there were in 2002).
HB2655 creates a path for Oregon to build a system of assessment that treats children as they ought to be treated — real human beings who need to be nurtured. Students and parents — not businesses or corporate-sponsored foundations — are at the center of this bill, which is predicated on the idea that students should be engaged in their learning and that good education inspires students to follow their natural curiosity and their imagination.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A turning point for Oregon schools

Statesman Journal
June 26th, 2015

A recent study shows that Oregon ranks 38th in student performance and 39th in education funding. That’s not good enough.
More students should be graduating, and all should achieve more in math, reading, writing and science. But what will it take to reach a 100 percent graduation rate?
First, we need to understand why students drop out. Back in 2010, Gladstone Schools surveyed 52 dropouts to ask why they did not finish school. What we discovered is how complicated life is for students living on the edge.
Neglect, domestic abuse, mental illness, foster care and poverty. Divorced parents, parent incarceration, homelessness and family members battling addiction. Most dropouts we interviewed were coping with multiple issues. We cannot simply wish away the resulting impacts to education, health and the workforce. We need to take action.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Suspend the Kicker

Willamette Live
June 24th, 2015

There is a reason that Oregon is the only state in the nation that rebates surplus tax collections to citizens. It’s a bad idea.
The “kicker” was a bad idea 37 years ago when it was first enacted by the Legislature and it’s a bad idea today. What many other states do with their surplus, and what we should do with ours, is to save it for a rainy day.
Rainy days always come, especially in Oregon, which has one of the most volatile tax systems in the country, one that is especially sensitive to economic downturns.
Like the last time the kicker kicked.
It was in 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession. Taxpayers received a $1.1 billion kicker just before the bottom fell out of the state and national economy and the state budget. The next few years saw huge cuts to school funding, to higher education funding and to other needed services. Higher education funding still has not recovered nearly a decade later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gov. Brown signs Student Assessment Bill of Rights

Statesman Journal 
June 23rd, 2015

Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that would require school districts to inform parents of public school students of their rights to opt out of standardized tests.
HB 2655, also called the Student Assessment Bill of Rights, passed the Oregon Senate June 11 after it generated a good deal of public testimony from educators, parents, students and advocates.
The bill enables parents to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced assessment for any reason and requires that districts inform them of that right.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was administered for the first time in Oregon public schools for the first time this year. It assesses students on the common core, which are learning goals adopted by the state in 2010. The test replaced the Oregon Assessment on Knowledge and Skills and is said to be more difficult and takes longer for students to complete.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Growing Pains: State Tries To Expand Rural College Credit Program

June 18th, 2015

The state has spent nearly $2 million to replicate Eastern Promise. It’s a collaboration between eastern Oregon K-12 schools and higher education to get more students to college or into career training.
The idea is to bring together universities, colleges and K-12 schools to do three things: “To increase access for students to college credits, and to help create college-going cultures, and to align curriculum between high schools and colleges,” said Hilda Rosselli with the Oregon Education Investment Board.
Eastern Promise offers college credits in rural high schools, for things like native Spanish-speaking ability or college-level coursework. There’s a program in the lower grades to encourage grade schoolers to start thinking early about what it would be like to go to college.

Teacher-led protest against Common Core testing picks an unlikely target

June 22nd, 2015

Teachers and parents who hate Common Core testing and decry what they say is a corporate hijacking of the U.S. school curriculum to protest Tuesday at a downtown Portland testing conference.
But, in a twist, they will be picketing a conference that's all about subverting the importance of standardized tests by empowering teachers to create their own tests to drive what happens in class.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Compensation 101

Register Guard
June 16th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, Yale University filed a federal tax return showing that Richard C. Levin received an $8.5 million payout when he retired in 2013 after two decades as president. Last Monday, the Chronicle of Higher Education released its new rankings of presidential salaries at public universities.
From these two data sources one can learn that Levin made more money in 2013 (the lump sum plus other compensation of $1.15 million) than the 10 highest-paid public university presidents and chancellors combined made in fiscal 2014.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jurassic thought: Linfield College prof teaches 'Dinosaur Philosophy'

June 18th, 2015

The blockbuster "Jurassic World," just had the highest-grossing box office opening weekend in U.S. history, a testament to people's love of dinosaurs. But Linfield College assistant professor Leonard Finkelman, a self-proclaimed "dinosaur philosopher," takes that love to an unusual level.
Finkelman, who grew up in New York City, has been excited about dinosaurs since he was 2. He was first captivated by the Tyrannosaurus Rex on a family trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. To this day, the T. rex is his favorite dinosaur.

Recession slammed a 4-year brake on U.S. school spending; Oregon fared worse

June 17th, 2015

Despite a rebounding economy, U.S. spending on public schools grew more slowly from 2009 to 2013 than at any time during the preceding two decades, new data from the Census Bureau shows.
Since the economic recovery began in June 2009, spending on schools rose by only about 0.5 percent a year on average through 2013, to $10,700 per student, an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive found.
By contrast, per-student spending on U.S. schools grew an average of 5 percent a year, and never less than 2.5 percent year-over-year, from 1992 through 2008, Census figures show.
Oregon's spending on schools trended downward from 2009 to 2013, making for an even greater historical anomaly. At $9,500 per student, the state spent 3 percent less in 2012-13 than during its peak year of 2008-09, even though inflation rose about 9 percent during that period, the federal figures show.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Shift funding, not policy; turn freshmen into graduates

Statesman Journal
June 17th, 2015

Higher education in Oregon is fortunate to have many advocates returning to Salem year after year in support of our students. Dedicated legislators wrestle with the nagging issues of affordability, graduation rates and degrees that meet Oregon’s economic needs.
Several hundred people – from guidance counselors and college presidents to students themselves – testify each session about the gantlet that students traverse between enrolling and earning a degree. There is universal agreement that something must be done so that more students can access college, get a degree and become part of a highly skilled, diverse workforce helping to reinvigorate the middle class.

Free Community College, Anyone?

June 17th, 2015

This is the question Senator Mark Hass and his compatriots, Representatives Mark Johnson and Tobias Read, have posed in a bill currently before the Oregon Legislature.
Inspired by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's year-old "Tennessee Promise," SB 81 grants students a community college tuition waiver if they meet its several requirements. These include attainment of a high school diploma or a GED within two years of applying for this program, as well as seeking a federal Pell grant. The Oregon Promise would cover the remainder of tuition due after federal resources are applied. Students would pay a nominal $50 fee each term.
Tuition-free community college made its first appearance as a proposal last session in SB 1524. That bill became an interim study by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Given Oregon's 40-40-20 goal (100 percent high school graduation, 40 percent associate’s degree attainment, and the remaining 40 percent of Oregonians earning a four-year degree or higher by the year 2025), the study explored this concept as a way to raise the state's college-degree attainment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

University of Oregon to hire faculty under auspices of researchers Jim Hutchison, Eric Selker and Elizabeth Stormshak

Register Guard
June 15th, 2015

Wanted: Internationally recognized scientist with demonstrated ability to solve cutting-edge problems on chromosome and nuclear architecture, function and dynamics.
Must be willing to help revive the University of Oregon’s classical genetics research to its former renown.Nobel Prize is not required, said Chuck Lillis, chairman of the UO Board of Trustees.
“But let’s hire the person who might be on the short list and is perfect for the university,” he said.
Lillis is talking about a specific hiring push meant to bring dozens of new scientists to campus in the next few years.
The initiative is part of the “clusters of excellence” academic upgrade plan the UO unveiled last year. Faculty proposed 34 fields where new hires could elevate the UO’s rankings nationally.
Administrators chose the 10 best “clusters” to pursue in the hopes that donors would step up and fund the new hires.So far, only one donor has done so.
Last fall, Connie Ballmer — and her husband, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer — funded an “obesity prevention” cluster in the UO College of Education with a $20 million endowment.

'Much remains to be done' a recurring theme in Portland Superintendent Carole Smith's performance review

June 16th, 2015

A majority of Portland school board members offered over-the-top praise to Portland schools superintendent Carole Smith before voting 4-1 Monday night to approve her yearly job evaluation.
They called her an a person with uncanny intelligence and perception (board member Greg Belisle), an exceptionally kind person who has earned the gratitude of teens (Matt Morton), a leader who has delivered great results (Ruth Adkins) and an employee with "an work ethic beyond anybody I have seen" (Tom Koehler).
But the written performance review they approved on a 4-1 vote, with two members absent, gave a more moderated view of what Smith accomplished in the past year.
She was awarded no raise and no extension of her contract, even though many board members said she deserved both. At the last minute Monday, the board dropped plans to give her a one-year contract extension, to 2018, because the new board majority that will be sworn in on July 6 objected.

Monday, June 15, 2015

We're far from 40-40-20, but Oregon is optimistic

Statesman Journal
June 13th, 2015

More than 4,800 local high school seniors walked down aisles and across stages to accept their diplomas this month.
Most of them by now have probably made the decision of what comes next: college or no college?
If all goes according to former Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to boost economic prosperity in Oregon, all of those graduates eventually will fall into one of three categories.
According to a statewide goal, by 2025, 40 percent of working-age Oregonians will have at least a bachelor's degree, another 40 percent will have an associate degree or certificate, and the remaining 20 percent will have a high school diploma. As it stands, numbers obtained by the Oregon Education Investment Board through U.S. Census data are far from 40-40-20.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Public higher education needs a master plan

Register Guard
June 9th, 2015

Mission creep in public higher education has always worried me, and the worries seem to increase with every passing day.
Most states, including Oregon, have three institutional arrangements when it comes to education beyond high school — community colleges, teaching universities and research universities. This arrangement was pioneered in California and put into place in 1960, thanks to visionary politicians, including Dorothy Donahoe, who represented Bakersfield in the state Assembly. When I taught at California State University in Bakersfield, before moving to Oregon, it was a pleasure to walk through the corridors of DDH — Dorothy Donahoe Hall.
The California plan — the “master plan for higher education” — delineated the roles for the three types of higher education institutions. Through such a clearly demarcated set of responsibilities, taxpayers were assured that resources would not be wasted through unnecessary overlaps among the community colleges and the universities.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Senate votes to eliminate Kitzhaber education board

Statesman Journal
June 9th, 2015

The Oregon Senate has voted to eliminate the Oregon Education Investment Board, which was the centerpiece of former Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to improve public education.
Kitzhaber envisioned the board as a powerful agency overseeing all of education, from preschool through college, with authority to direct money toward the most successful schools. The concept never fully materialized, and the board has many critics who say it's ineffective.