Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber
, running this May for his old job in the Democratic primary, spoke today at Portland Community College about his plans for education.
Kitzhaber said the purpose of education has changed from the 1970s when it was easier to get a well-paying job with only a high school diploma. Included in Kitzhaber's proposals for Oregon elementary and secondary education problems are improving early childhood development curriculum, experimenting with pilot summer school programs, and implementing progressive secondary education classes that would expose high school students to college-level courses. His hope is that by introducing students to college coursework early, students will feel motivated to continue their education and to pursue a career path that is right for them.
He says what's important is making actual changes to our current system, not simply perpetuating it by increasing the schools' budget. “You have to be funding the right system,” Kitzhaber says. “Funding is important, but funding the right program is more important.” Kitzhaber says that if elected he plans to implement funding based on performance, not enrollment. “To get more money,” Kitzhaber says, “you need to make a case for why and where you need the money.” This model of performance-based funding will, according to Kitzhaber, make the system more transparent and allow for investments towards clear objectives.
That's an approach likely to cause concerns among some members of the Oregon Education Association. The teachers union wields a lot of power in the Democratic primary and is scheduled to endorse a candidate at its convention next week. Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill Bradbury, the former Secretary of State, is running hard for the OEA endorsement because it would help him make up ground in the polls and with fund-raising (Read more about that in this week's WW
In response to concerns among teachers who see this budgetary plan as code for linking pay to performance, Kitzhaber says, “That's not what we're talking about...This is not another No Child Left Behind. I want to establish clear performance measures and hold them [schools] accountable.”