Yesterday, Governor Kitzhaber proposed to spend $9.4 billion in education, half of his $18.6 billion proposed state budget for the next two years. This is an increase of nine percent over the last education budget and demonstrates the governor’s commitment and leadership on strengthening our education system.
We welcome this focus on education. The climate for educators is very complex today—constantly evolving and with many challenges, especially as they navigate Common Core, new evaluations, and new state testing. Teachers are the single most important in-school factor that drives student success. That’s why it’s important to put strong resources into support programs that allow them to bring their best to our students, whether they are in preschool, third grade, or ninth.
We support the governor’s priorities in early education and his increased focus on English language learners. These are important and worthy investments. And while we agree it takes efforts on many fronts to prepare our children to succeed, we want to ensure that educators and educator effectiveness remain a top priority. Investing in our educators is the strongest strategy we have to improve the quality of education in Oregon.
During the last budget cycle, the state created the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning as recognition of the need to develop and support effective teachers and leaders by building ongoing statewide systems and supports. The Network impacts the full continuum of an educator’s career pathway and invests in strategies that are evidence based and research driven. The governor’s 2015-17 budget includes the statutory funding set aside for the Network at $37.4 million and continues to expand the School District Collaboration fund, which supports districts implementing CLASS-like work. It also funds K-12 educator mentoring and school leadership efforts. But it stops short of investing in other vital areas of the educator continuum, namely improving teacher preparation programs and implementing new teacher and principal evaluation systems. These efforts are currently underway, but without continued funding, risk poor or incomplete implementation. The statutory funding also doesn’t provide adequate supports for educators as they rework their curriculum and teaching practices to meet new state standards. For this reason, we have urged the governor to fully fund the Network with $55 million. We intend to work with him and our state legislators to attain this goal.
Every Oregon student deserves a great teacher. If we are to deliver on the promise of a high-quality education for all our students, there must be a strong focus and investment in our educators. While this may not be a new demand or strategy, it is a proven one. Effective educators are the most important factor to ensuring the success of every student, and the success and vitality of our state. Let’s make sure we invest in their success by maintaining our commitment to educator effectiveness as one of our top priorities.
Letter to Gov. Kitzhaber regarding the proposed 2015-2017 budget