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PERS isnt to blame for schools ills

In response to rep. Katie Eyre’s guest column in the Sept. 4 News-Times (“Curbing PERS costs”), I find Eyre’s stated position on how to deal with the costs of education blatantly hypocritical and self-serving.

During Eyre’s time in office, there were a host of Republican-sponsored cuts to schools statewide, and specifically in Washington County. The small retirement pensions that teachers and custodial workers receive are not the cause of school budget shortfalls no matter how much she professes. If anything, the tax giveaways that Eyre and her party oversaw have been abysmal to the counties’ schools, teachers and students.

The Forest Grove schools have seen exorbitant cuts to staff, school days, elective classes at the high school, etc., to the point that our children are losing out.

Parts of the “Jason Conger Savings Act,” which Eyre praises in the article, appear to be an attempt to invalidate negotiated contracts, much like Gov. Scott Walker carried out in Wisconsin.

Walker’s plan was and is fundamentally unfair. To gut those very benefits, which educators sacrificed other benefits to obtain, is morally wrong. We don’t want our children to pay for the greed of a few adults. Soon, the PERS rate will increase, with more of teacher’s salary going to support the pool. And yet teachers continue to become teachers because they are driven to teach, not because they hope to cash in.

Clearly Eyre is right about the brutal cuts to our community’s schools, but it’s outrageous for her to think that she’s not in large part the cause of the problem.

In the column, she takes no responsibility for the damage she set into motion. She makes no mention that she directly introduced and sponsored six pieces of legislation that cut taxes on the wealthiest Oregonians, with no plan on how to recoup the losses. Eyre had a choice; she could have supported maintaining taxes at the current level for the wealthier among us, bringing in revenue that would extend a lifeline to our struggling schools.

As Bill Clinton might say, “It takes a lot of brass” to have a record like Katie Eyre and the Republicans, then to try to blame the education shortfalls on hardworking educators. As a concerned parent of two school-age Forest Grovers, I believe we need to be serious about the future of education in the region, and that starts with the acknowledgment of the real need for a broad-based tax plan to protect educators and students alike.

Our kids can’t vote, so it’s our job to vote for their future. They’re depending on us.

Skip Buhler

Forest Grove



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