2/19/2012: Columnist David Sarasohn:
In the middle of the 1990s, when Oregon K-12 funding was a question of whether programs would be thrown overboard right away or the following year, Portland school superintendent Jack Bierwirth was asked why he had ever decided to come here.
He explained that he’d been very excited about the school reform plan the Legislature passed in 1991, guaranteeing preschool to every Oregon student, and thought with that basis, schools could do impressive things.
Delicately, he was asked whether he hadn’t noticed that there was no actual funding for the policy.
Bierwirth replied, still sounding bewildered years after his decision, “I couldn’t believe they’d pass it without some way to pay for it.”
At the time, he hadn’t seen much of Oregon.
Bierwirth’s bewilderment comes to mind as the state sets out another lofty goal, 40-40-20 — having 40 percent of the state’s adults with four-year college degrees, 40 percent with two-year degrees or the equivalent, and the remaining 20 percent with high school degrees. It would be an impressive advance, since the four-year number is now closer to 30 percent and the two-year degree number way lower than that. The state is so proud of the goal that the last legislature made it law.
Just like the 1991 school reform bill.
Oregon’s not going to get to 40-40-20 by just getting people to sign compacts saying they’ll do better. It will take considerable new money for both university resources and financial aid support, a sharp U-turn from the direction the state has followed for the last 20 years. …
Lariviere had a plan that would have allowed UO to do its part, complete with financing. Kitzhaber let Pernsteiner fire him – and hasn’t come up with anything better. At some point politician’s “aspirational goals” become part of the problem.