Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Flores Op-Ed Piece on Castillo

House Education Chair Linda Flores wrote this op-ed piece. She was one of the bright spots of the legislature this session.

Castillo Needs Reality Check

State Representative Linda Flores
(House District 51, Clackamas)

Oregon’s education system is much better off thanks to the 2005 legislature despite of what’s been reported. Even before the session ended our State School Superintendent was bashing legislators for what didn’t get done on her wish list. In many ways she has only herself to blame and now she’s asking Oregon voters to re-elect her.

Superintendent Susan Castillo says there were too many “missed opportunities”. She should call them “bureaucratic blockades” because her agency and its friends created them. Castillo is right about one thing she said: “turf and preservation of the status quo won out over what was best for students, schools and taxpayers.” Her turf and her status quo.

As Chair of the House Education Committee I know first hand the struggles we faced trying to implement the very reforms Castillo pretends to embrace, but in reality opposed.

For example, Castillo wanted a stable school funding plan. The Speaker of the House produced one and it wasn’t good enough for Castillo. She wanted more accountability and consolidation. The education bureaucracy fought hard and the result? Modest Education Service District reform.

According to Castillo we failed to make changes to the Certificates of Initial and Advanced Mastery programs. The House approved replacing that flawed system with a better, less expensive system to comply with federal standards. Once again, Castillo and her friends in the education establishment put a stop to that in the Senate.

As I said in the beginning the 2005 session did a lot of good things for Oregon schools. Things you haven’t heard from Castillo. We gave K-12 a 6-percent increase in state funding. We added two credits and an extra year of math and English in order to graduate. We allowed juniors and seniors to take college classes, paid for by their high school. In addition, we increased safety with stronger laws against child abuse and bomb threats in schools.

Some districts are still trying to make up from program reductions in recent years, but new test scores show significant improvement. I believe we have many hard working teachers and students focusing on basic skills rather than administrative tasks.

Yes, we have challenges ahead. Instead of taking up an entire day teaching kids the format for their next CIM test…teach them about Oregon’s rich pioneer history. Instead of two report cards on school performance, one for the feds and one for the state, why not consolidate? The list goes on and on.

Yes, there is plenty of room for improvement. It would be beneficial to Oregon if Superintendent Castillo and her allies would decide to partner to make progress. As a former legislator, Susan knows better than to block legislation, then turn around and blame the legislature for not passing it. As we prepare for the 2007 legislative session I am developing a long list of positive changes and I plan to keep pushing for needed reforms – for our children.

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