The two leading candidates for governor, Republican Knute Buehler of Bend and incumbent Democrat Kate Brown, both came out with plans for Oregon’s lackluster education system this summer. Only Buehler offered a way to pay for them.
The two proposals have some similarities. Both candidates say they would increase the school year to at least 180 days of instructional time, the national average. The Oregon average is only 165 days. Both would beef up career and technical education programs.
But Brown talks about cutting class sizes and taking the advice of a policy committee to create “safe and effective schools.” Buehler lays out more demanding education standards and wants to pay for 2016’s Measure 98, which requires funding for drop-out prevention and career and college readiness programs in schools.
Most important, Buehler offers a way to pay for what he proposes.
Brown has largely stayed silent on that subject. She would, for example, increase funding so that more low-income children could go to preschool. It’s a good idea, to be sure. But Brown hasn’t said where the money will come from, other than from the state budget.
True, the Interim Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue, led by Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, is looking at overhauling the state’s property tax system, which could mean more money for schools. Any changes, however, would have to be approved by voters, and they likely would be a tough sell.
Buehler is far more specific than Brown. He would boost state education funding by 15 percent, and he would pay for it by reforming the state’s Public Employees Retirement System. That latter, he says, would cut $1.2 billion from Oregon retirement spending without putting retiring workers in the poorhouse. Among other things, he would cap how much any one PERS member could collect in a year. That would end such obscenities as the retired president of Oregon Health & Science University drawing more than $76,000 per month, nearly $1 million annually, in PERS benefits.
It’s great to have good ideas about improving Oregon’s education. It’s even better to have a plan to pay for those improvements.