State education reform ideas get mixed grades

Students, educators say adding initiatives without financial support just won't work

Southern Oregon University students and Rogue Community College staff dominated a state education forum Wednesday night — criticizing a proposed achievement-based funding model for Oregon colleges.

"We don't need performance-based funding, we just need funding," said Juliet Long, an RCC instructor who spoke to state Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew, his policy adviser and two members of the Oregon Education Investment Board during a forum at North Medford High School.

Long disagreed with the board's idea to cut a portion of funding for colleges and universities that aren't performing well or producing enough graduating students.

"We know what works, if you give us the funding," said Long.

Several SOU students also spoke out against the proposal, one of five ideas for education reform proposed by the state's education funding team to improve pre-kindergarten through college education.

"Schools and students need funding to succeed," said SOU student Sean Lowry, who said he refuses to fall any further in debt through student loans, though he still has more than a year before he graduates.

Other proposals by the education funding team include improvements to pre-kindergarten education programs, a requirement to bring third grade students to benchmark reading levels, increasing funding for English language learning programs and recommending budgets and policies that seek to eliminate achievement gaps between historically underperforming groups of students.

The OEIB is reviewing the drafted ideas and gathering public feedback before making recommendations to the state legislature.

Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said while the drafted reforms were "wonderful" ideas, schools don't have the resources to take on any new initiatives without more funding.

"Our district is stretched very, very, very thin," said Di Chiro.

Di Chiro said that districts are already struggling to begin proficiency-based grading, adhering to new common core standards and the state's new achievement compacts.

Di Chiro said that until the state restores baseline funding to schools, districts don't have the money to take on any new initiatives.

Since its creation by Gov. Kitzhaber in 2011, the OEIB has set ambitious goals for education reform, including a target of 100 percent of students graduating from high school and 80 percent graduating from college or a technical school by 2025.

The board has created achievement compacts, which instruct schools to set their own goals for improving student performance, part of the new school and district report cards created for the state's waiver from No Child Left Behind.

The forum was advertised as a discussion on education funding, which will likely take another hit locally, after county officials said Wednesday that property tax collections are down for the second consecutive year.

Another forum will take place tonight at Southwestern Community College in Coos Bay, followed by an online webinar from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday on the Oregon Department of Education website.

Those who can't attend a forum can email their comments to

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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