(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Larry Wolf is president of the Oregon Education Association.)
You can't provide high quality education without investment. Governor Ted Kulongoski knows that, and has proposed a plan to accomplish it - a plan that's now within reach.
Ron Saxton either doesn't know that, or won't admit it. One thing is clear: Saxton has plenty of soundbites on education, but no plan to invest in our students and Oregon's future.
Worse yet, Saxton supports Measure 41, which will require cuts to public education immediately, and will prevent the state from providing adequate funding in the long-term. He has declined to actively campaign against Measure 48, which also will hamstring Oregon's ability to invest in public education.
Saxton's refusal to actively oppose both measures, knowing how destructive they will be, is proof that his campaign rhetoric is just that: rhetoric. Meanwhile, Oregonians are left to wonder how Saxton plans to fund education, and how deep the cuts will be.
The incongruity of Saxton's rhetoric and his inaction on these measures is telling about the kind of leader he would make. Either he is willing to settle for a mediocre public education system, or he is unwilling, for the sake of the greater good, to stand up to a small but vocal faction of his supporters. Either way, that's the kind of 'leadership' that will move Oregon backwards.
By contrast, Ted Kulongoski has a plan for significant investment in public education and he is using every opportunity to educate voters about how Measures 41 and 48 will derail Oregon's future. (Like Kulongoski, we urge a 'no' vote on both measures.)
Kulongoski's plan invests in public education from preschool through higher education. It provides small class sizes, professional development for educators, grants for higher ed students and vocational programs.
Kulongoski has specified a funding threshold of $6 billion for the next K-12 education budget to restore basic programs. His plan provides a 10-percent increase for preK-12, community college and higher education in subsequent budget cycles. Kulongoski also seeks to redirect the corporate kicker to a fund that will sustain schools during economic downturns.
The Oregon Education Association represents teachers and education support professionals working in Oregon's public schools and community colleges.
We believe Oregon's students shouldn't be the testing ground for unproven ideas - in particular Saxton's proposals to privatize public services. We do not educate widgets, we educate people. Privatization means less oversight, lower standards and greater risk for our students.
We know what works in education: small classes, individual attention, highly qualified educators, rigorous standards, rich curriculum, and parent involvement. Oregon has many of these components already, but we lack the resources to complete the picture.
We believe leadership is more than just a word to toss around, as Ron Saxton does. Ted Kulongoski demonstrates what leadership is. He has the vision and the courage of his convictions to move Oregon forward. The question is: do Oregonians want leadership for the future, or will we be 'led' backward?
The choice is clear to us. That's why we recommend Ted Kulongoski for Oregon Governor.