Friday, May 29, 2015

Community college tuition bill needs stronger community colleges first: Editorial Agenda 2015

May 29th, 2015

There's much to like about Senate Bill 81, which seeks to dramatically increase enrollment in community colleges by high school graduates who might otherwise pass up higher education - and the opportunities that come with it.
The program, modeled after one in Tennessee, promises a nearly tuition-free education at any of Oregon's 17 community colleges for Oregon high-school graduates meeting certain requirements. The program would open career paths for students who dismissed the idea of college because of the cost, backers say, putting them on a path to better-paying jobs, giving labor-starved employers a workforce to call on and reducing the state's costs of social-service programs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fewer than a quarter of Oregon community college students complete degrees, audit says

May 28th, 2015

Only 24 percent of Oregon community college students reviewed in a state audit released Wednesday received an associate's degree or certificate within seven years.
The audit by Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins' office found even lower completion rates for most students of color. Completion rates were 15 percent for black students, 16 percent for Pacific Islanders, 19 percent for multi-racial students, 21 percent for Hispanics and 22 percent for Native Americans.
State higher education agencies and community colleges should increase capacity and help students complete degrees and certificates, the audit report recommended. The report found that Oregon is far from reaching its goal of 40 percent of adults having an associate's degree or post-secondary credential by 2025.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

David Sarasohn: Another education initiative bites the dust (OPINION)

May 26th, 2015

Last week, without even a playing of "Taps" — we don't have that much music in our schools these days — the governor and the Legislature quietly dumped the Oregon Education Investment Board over the side. The board's demise was collateral damage in the implosion of its patron, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, and its end came quickly; like too many Oregon high-school students, the board didn't even complete a four-year career.
OEIB, we hardly knew ye.
But the abandonment of such a major effort — a blue-ribbon committee of 13 prominent Oregonians, chaired by the governor, intended to make shrewd decisions transforming all of Oregon education from birth through graduate school — deserves some sort of ceremony. Admittedly, a eulogy couldn't have much to say about the career and achievements of the OEIB — a funeral needs to last long enough to let the pallbearers catch their breath — but perhaps we could say something about the attitude behind the board.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

University of Oregon considers creating UOCare, its own self-insured student health plan

Register Guard
May 26th, 2015

he University of Oregon is proposing to create its own health insurance plans — UOCare — and to sweep all new and returning students into one of the plans come fall.
The plan would include the existing on-campus health care plus a yet-to-be-identified net­work of off-campus doctors, counselors, urgent care and hospital services.
UOCare would satisfy the requirement in the federal Affordable Care Act that students carry health insurance.
The federal penalty for individuals who neglect to buy coverage is getting steep: $325 this year and $695 for 2016.
The UO Board of Trustees first would have to give the UO permission at its June 4-5 meeting to pursue the student health plans. The plan would be self-insured, which would mean the university would take on the financial risk of providing coverage for the students.

Portland school board to weigh paying teachers $1.8 million for increased workload

May 22nd, 2015

The Portland school board will vote Tuesday on a resolution to pay high school teachers $1.8 million to make up for increasing their work load this school year in accordance with an arbitration remedy.
The Portland teachers union filed a grievance last year alleging that high school schedules violated contracted workload limits. The union argued the high schools' current schedules, which have teachers instructing six out of eight classes a day, were not comparable to workload when the district had teachers teach five of seven periods in 2010-2011.
In March an arbitrator sided with the union and directed the district to pay a monetary award and reduce workload by next school year.

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Kitzhaber's once-powerful education board will die

The Oregonian
May 22nd, 2015

Early in his third term, Gov. John Kitzhaber created a powerful overarching education board that he pledged would forge dramatic improvements statewide. The panel would zero in on key strategies, break down the silos separating preschools, public schools and colleges and overhaul spending priorities to get the most vital results.
He put a host of influential Oregonians on the board, ranging from the teachers union president to a Nike executive. The governor himself was its chairman.
Four years later, the Oregon Legislature is days away from killing that board for good.
Gov. Kate Brown, Kitzhaber's successor, told The Oregonian/OregonLive she fully supports the move.

PCC board ousts college president

Portland Tribune
May 22nd 2015

The Portland Community College board voted Monday night to part ways with Jeremy Brown, the college president.
Board members unanimously approved a separation-in-service agreement that removes Brown from the position he has held for less than two years. The agreement included a $300,000 severance payment.
“This is a mutual parting of the ways,” Deanna Palm, PCC board chairwoman and president of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, said after the May 18 meeting. “The board and Dr. Brown realized they were each heading in different directions and have agreed to this separation-in-service.”
Palm said the board “thanks Dr. Brown for his service,” and “wishes him well in future endeavors.”
Under the four-page separation agreement, Brown will be on paid leave (with full benefits) until June 30, when his employment with PCC officially ends. On July 1, Brown will receive a payment of $100,000 (minus withholding) for wages. He also will be paid for his unused vacation time.

Bill would keep Oregon kicker for budget reserves, education

Statesman Journal
May 22nd, 2015

An Oregon Democrat introduced a bill Thursday that would cancel anticipated "kicker" tax rebates and use the money instead for education and the state's reserve fund.
The move by Rep. Tobias Read of Beaverton comes a week after economists projected that more than $470 million will be returned to Oregonians when they file their taxes next year.
Read's bill faces long odds. It would require a bipartisan vote of two-thirds of the House and Senate. Republicans oppose taking money promised to taxpayers, and senior Democrats have acknowledged it's unlikely to happen.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oregon's kicker tax rebate would be suspended under bill from Beaverton legislator

May 21st, 2015

Rep. Tobias Read said Thursday that he's introduced legislation to suspend the projected $473 million kicker tax rebate and instead divert the money to schools and to the state's rainy-day fund.
"House Bill 3555 gives us an opportunity to invest in the things that reflect our values as Oregonians, and to turn around years of cuts to our K-12 schools, our colleges, and our universities," the Beaverton Democrat said in a press release.

Huge turnover on Portland school board will bring fresh scrutiny to performance, spending

May 21st, 2015

Amy Kohnstamm wants to hold Portland Public Schools accountable for getting results.
Julie Esparza Brown said the district must take a better look at how to improve Oregon's statewide education picture.
Paul Anthony said he'd like to see frequent financial reports and a better monitoring of the district's budget.
These are three of the four newly elected directors to the Portland Public Schools Board of Education, chosen by voters Tuesday night. Mike Rosen, who ran unopposed for the Zone 7 seat, is the fourth new board member.
Eleven candidates had filed for the open spots, with some races more competitive than others. The new members will join current directors Steve Buel, Tom Koehler and Pam Knowles on the seven-member board starting in July. Current board members Ruth Adkins, Matt Morton and Greg Belisle are stepping down.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The higher-ed Mississippi of the West Coast (OPINION)

May 20th, 2015

It's not often that Oregon appears in the higher ranks of any list concerning higher education. We keep our universities on such starvation rations that the University of Oregon concluded, a few years ago, that its only chance was to get out of the state system. The UO was swiftly followed by the other six state universities, even by those with what one might call no visible means of support.
Restructuring Oregon higher education has seen a breakthrough. Now, instead of Oregon underfunding its higher education system, we underfund our universities individually.
But last week, there was Oregon, ranking sixth nationally in a chart produced by the Washington, D.C, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — a chart chronicling higher education cuts during the Great Recession. From 2007 to 2015, the CBPP found, Oregon cut its inflation-adjusted per-student spending by 33.5 percent, among the deepest cuts in the country.
And Oregon's universities hadn't been all that generously funded in 2007.

Portland School Board elections: Professor and student face off in Zone 1

May 11th, 2015

Voters will have a chance to reshape the Portland Public Schools Board of Education in the May 19 special election, when four of the board's seven seats are on the ballot.
Incumbent Bobbie Regan is seeking another term on the board, but board members Ruth Adkins, Matt Morton and Greg Belisle are leaving office.
Terms for the other three members, Steve Buel, Tom Koehler and Pam Knowles are up in 2017.
Four candidates are running for open spots in zones 2 and 3. The zone 7 race is uncontested.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oregon's next state schools chief

OregonianMay 18th, 2015

Salam Noor, who served as assistant superintendent of Salem-Keizer schools and assistant state superintendent at the Oregon Department of Education before that, will become Oregon's new state schools chief in July.
Gov. Kate Brown said she chose Noor to oversee all of K-12 education because of his track record of improving student achievement as chief academic officer in Salem schools and at the state education agency.
Noor said his top priorities will align with the governor's: expanding early childhood education, closing the opportunity gap for minority and low-income students and better ensuring that students graduate high school prepared for college and careers.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Oregon university presidents, buoyed by revenue forecast, ask state to restore higher-ed budgets

May 15th, 2015

The presidents of Oregon's seven public universities urged Gov. Kate Brown and the Legislature Thursday to devote some of an increased amount of money in May's state revenue forecast to post-secondary education.
The presidents were reacting to a statement from Brown, who said that this year's relatively strong economic growth would allow the state to spend an additional $100 million during the 2015-2017 budget cycle on "our public schools, as well as fund early childhood, career-technical and STEM programs that support student success and reduce the opportunity gap."
Beyond that $100 million, the quarterly forecast released Thursday morning contained about $350 million more revenues than predicted in the state's March forecast, said Hans Bernard, University of Oregon associate vice president for state and community affairs.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Revenue forecast: Oregon ‘kicker’ refund grows

The Statesman Journal
May 14th, 2015

Oregonians could receive ‘kicker’ tax rebates totaling $473 million, an average of $284 per tax filer.
And schools will get an additional $105 million, bringing K-12 funding to a historic $7.33 billion.
Oregon’s quarterly revenue forecast shows the state’s economy is growing faster than expected, state economist Mark McMullen told legislators Thursday, leading to a projected increase in tax revenues.
Even after the kicker refund, the 2015-17 state budget will grow by an estimated $463 million.
“This strong forecast will allow us to fill the current budget holes in public safety, human services, and natural resources in order to meet the needs of communities throughout Oregon – all while maintaining responsible reserves to protect our state from future downturns,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland.

Students Protest In Salem For More Higher Ed Funding

May 14th, 2015

Ten people were arrested at the Oregon Capitol on Thursday in a protest timed to coincide with the release of the state revenue forecast.
Oregon State Police Lt. Bill Fugate said the protesting students who were arrested were taken to the Marion County Jail and charged with interfering with legislative operations, which is a misdemeanor.
Students at the protest said they were demanding more money to be put toward higher education funding, as revenue forecasts improved. State economists estimated Thursday that Oregonians could receive more than $473 million as the state’s “kicker” law goes into effect. That happens with the state tax collections exceed projections by at least 2 percent.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Oregon Higher Board names president for Eastern Oregon University

Register Guard
May 12th, 2015

The Oregon Board of Higher Education has named an executive from the wood products industry as president of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.
The board voted unanimously for Tom Insko, a manager for Boise Cascade in La Grande, The Observer newspaper reports .
Insko holds degrees from Eastern in mathematics and business-economics. He succeeds Bob Davies, who left in 2014 to become president of Murray State University in Kentucky. Former board financial officer Jay Kenton has been interim president.
Other finalists were Martin Tadlock of Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota and Cynthia Pemberton of Dickinson State University in North Dakota.
A fourth, Marysz Rames of Dakota State University in South Dakota, withdrew last week, saying she wanted to remain in the Midwest.

Keep higher education a priority in 2015-17 budget

Statesman Journal
May 13th, 2015

This week the governor and state legislative leaders will receive a forecast of how much money Oregon will have to fund many important programs and services in our state during the next two years.
If current trends continue, the economic outlook will improve as we recover from the last recession. Unfortunately, Oregon’s public universities and community colleges have not recovered and still suffer from the cuts of the last economic downturn. That must change if we want to support a strong middle class for Oregon, keep post-secondary education accessible and invest in a sustainable economy.
As legislators finalize the 2015-17 budget, higher education must be a priority.
Never before have Oregonians been as supportive of higher education and understood that attaining a post-secondary degree improves an individual’s quality of life and benefits our entire state and economy. Last month, when legislative budget leaders traveled across the state, they heard the message loud and clear: Reinvesting in higher education is critical and can no longer be overlooked.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Portland Troublemakers School

Labor Notes
May 12th, 2015

Labor Notes Troublemakers School
is coming to Portland!

Calling all troublemakers! From teachers to bus drivers, retail workers to government employees, farm workers to nurses, we are rebuilding solidarity while fighting for a better world for working people.
This school is a place for troublemakers of all kinds—community organizers, union shop stewards, and labor activists—to come together for a day of skill-building workshops and strategy discussions to create a stronger workers’ movement in Portland.
Saturday, May 30
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
UA 290 Hall
20210 SW Teton Ave, Tualatin, OR

Labor Notes Troublemakers School
is coming to Portland!

Calling all troublemakers! From teachers to bus drivers, retail workers to government employees, farm workers to nurses, we are rebuilding solidarity while fighting for a better world for working people.
This school is a place for troublemakers of all kinds—community organizers, union shop stewards, and labor activists—to come together for a day of skill-building workshops and strategy discussions to create a stronger workers’ movement in Portland.
Saturday, May 30
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
UA 290 Hall
20210 SW Teton Ave, Tualatin, OR
- See more at:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Students succeed when Oregon reinvests in higher ed

Statesman Journal
May 6th, 2015

After years of disinvestment in higher education, Oregon’s economic recovery has finally made it possible to boost state funding for our universities. But it turns out that apportioning the gain from reinvestment can be even more challenging than rationing the pain of disinvestment.
So it appears from the comments by Portland State University Professor Ramin Farahmandpur in his April 28 guest opinion, “Failed legacy: Outcomes-based funding.” And so it will be if we fail to recognize that the way the state finances higher education, in both good budget periods and bad, has been unconnected to the needs of our students and unresponsive to the best efforts of our universities.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Outcomes-based funding a failed education legacy

Statesman Journal
April 29th, 2015

In the post-Kitzhaber era, one may be surprised to learn that a controversial vestige of the disgraced leader's vision has just been enacted.
The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (or HECC), which has oversight of post-secondary institutions in Oregon, has marched ahead with its planned adoption of a new degree-rewarding funding plan.
Will HECC's decision to adopt a formula that pays universities and community colleges for the number of degrees it produces actually improve the state's college graduation rates?
Student enrollment has traditionally driven state support for public higher education. Now, however, this new "outcomes-based" funding model will replace the old system, in an effort to boost graduation rates.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lawmakers and higher education (OPINION)

April 18th, 2015

You couldn't really say that this session of the Oregon Legislature has been ignoring higher education. Legislators have been having policy debates, discussing efficiency strategies and developing a bill to protect the regional universities from the last round of policy debates and efficiency strategies.
It's just paying for it all that's a complication.
So you can't say legislators can't identify with Oregon's college students, who have the same problem.
House higher education committee chairman Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, and vice chair Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, are pursuing a bill to expand the use of on-line open-source textbooks. This could be a considerable benefit, since the typical chemistry or art history textbook price is now deep into three figures, an amount enough to interest a pawnbroker.