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Rep. Richardson: Rethinking education funding

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Author: Christiana Mayer
By Taxpayer Association of Oregon Lawmaker Profile

Right now public education in the United States is behind such countries as Ireland, Estonia and Poland.  It is clear that something needs to be done. Representative Dennis Richardson believes that local control over public education is a crucial part of reforming education and making sure that our children get the education that they need.

“Reform education by returning education control to the lowest level – The level closest to the student. And ensure that funding follows the student,” said Richardson.

Taxpayers are constantly told that in order to have a good public education system more money is needed for our schools.  Several bills to reform the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) have been introduced in the current legislative session to find more money.  Most school districts blame the escalating cost of PERS as one reason why they have had to trim budgets.   Some of the ideas being talked about in the State Capitol are the PERS reform plan to limit the cost-of-living adjustments to the first $24,000 of a retiree’s benefits, which saves $400 million a year. Another PERS reform plan, to limit cost of living adjustments for higher end users, would save $225 million a year. Unfortunately Representative Richardson does not believe that meaningful PERS reform will pass this legislative session.

For example, there are two different state departments that are directly involved in public education. The Department of Education and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission create a series of hoops and barriers for teachers according to Representative Richardson. It is a layer of bureaucracy that keeps dollars out of the classroom.  Since Salem is always looking for ways to put money in the classroom perhaps the functions of these two departments could be combined.

Parents need to take a greater interest in the education of their children and that will help change the system.  Citizens should run for school board positions and volunteer in the public schools to make sure that they understand how the system works.

Reprinted with permission from Oregon Catalyst

Dennis Richardson, of Central Point, represents District 4 in the Oregon Legislature.

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