The Following Guest Commentary was run in the Herald and News
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Fixing funding allocation is the solution for schools
Without addressing the real issue, more school bond measures will be required
For the past several years there has been more than $100,000,000 ($100 million) available, annually, for City and County Schools. So, why doesn’t the district have enough money to fix a toilet, leaky faucet, or broken window?
Welcome to the world of wasted money and looney legislators.
In truth, the City and County School districts have been receiving, and will receive, between $100,000,000 and $110,000,000 a year, or more (not less). This amounts to over $1,000,000,000 ($1 billion) in a ten year period.
Let me repeat that statistic: $1 billion dollars is poured into the Klamath County educational system every ten years. By the time your five year old makes it to his fifteenth birthday he and his classmates will have consumed $1 billion dollars in taxpayer resources.
Yet, somehow, there is never enough money to provide maintenance, repair, or any new infra-structure construction. More money is always required.
Three years ago Measures #66 and #67 were supposed to infuse another estimated $727 million for public schools (and other state services). Yet, more money is always required.
The "Yes on 66 & 67" campaign spent $7.5 million promoting this “funding solution.” This “yes” money mostly came from public employee unions, including a combined $2.4 million from the Oregon Education Association (OEA) and National Education Association (NEA); and $2 million from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
This “yes” money is actually taxpayer money extracted during the worst of our current recession. The money trail looks like this: 1) from your wallet, 2) to benefit your local teacher salary, 3) into required union dues, 4) into a campaign to raise your taxes.
Steve Lowell, Chair of the Klamath County School District Board, writes, “There are 198 school districts in our state and not one has ever built a school without a levy. The funding formula from the state does not provide adequate funding for these projects and never has.”
Exactly! Now, we know why more money is required - the funding formula doesn’t work.
The Oregon legislature, along with Federal bureaucrats, knows that old crumbling buildings never contribute to election campaigns. There is no hue and cry from leaky roofs, windows or faucets. Therefore, our representatives continually defraud us by their pretense of “caring for our children”. They actually use our tax dollars to fund special interests (corporate or union) feeding the ever-growing dependence on Government Services. Worse, this funding problem has existed for decades.
This gross misallocation of $100 million of your money, annually, is the typical “kick the can” mode of bureaucratic un-accomplishment. Legislators never focus on the real problem because they can placate the taxpayers by telling them, “it’s always been done like this...”
In this economy it would be unfair to build a $20 million dollar facility for the 400 students at Henley while the rest of the county schools continue in their disrepair. Clearly, without fixing the funding misallocation another bond measure will soon be required.
We have an obligation to our community’s children - we must fix the systemic funding problem. The problem can’t be ignored any longer. The problem is not a lack of taxpayer resources.
Look at last week’s Federal shenanigans. After days of rampant finger-pointing and complaining, by airline passengers, bipartisan legislation passed both the Senate and the House. The mindless fury addressed FAA furloughs, the most noticeable downside to the looney federal sequestration budget.
That bill was “rushed through” Congress and gives the FAA transfer authority for $253 million.
Why hasn’t any concerted effort been made by all 169 school districts in Oregon for the same authority? Why hasn’t every district
superintendent, every teacher, administrator and teacher’s aide made field trips to Salem to get the funding stream changed? Why not join forces with parents, taxpayers and businesses to demand “transfer authority” for maintenance and capital projects?
Oh, I forgot. Taxpayers can be placated by telling them, “We need more money because this is the way its always been done.”