Oregon Achieves... Together!
A Message from the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, Colt Gill
The start of every school year brings a feeling of hope and promise, but this year seems even more special than most. On a personal level, this will mark my 30th anniversary in education.
I started teaching in Creswell, Oregon, in 1989. On the state level, this year marks the start of a new era in state funding for education. In November of 1990, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 5 that capped and gradually reduced the property tax rate that could be used for education. So in my 30 years in Oregon as a teacher, principal, district administrator and superintendent I have been part of a system that has been asked to do more with fewer resources each year (with few exceptions).
Now, after 30 years of underinvestment in our schools, Oregon’s leaders made a real commitment to our children, our educators, our schools and our state with the passage of the Student Success Act. When fully implemented, it will mean a $2-billion investment in education, the creation or expansion of 28 programs and a commitment to impacting student outcomes. This will bring us closer than ever to the Quality Education Model for funding.
The Student Success Act is a huge lift for our state and we will be doing work before we get resources and staff fully in place. Equity, engagement and accountability will be the values leading the effort to implement the Student Success Act.
Education equity is the equitable implementation of policy, practices, procedures, and legislation that translates into resource allocation, education rigor, and opportunities for historically and currently marginalized youth, students, and families including civil rights protected classes. This means the dismantling and restructuring of systems and institutions that create a dichotomy of beneficiaries over oppressed & marginalized peoples.
Engagement means state and local education systems must be inclusive of the voices of students and families, especially those historically underserved by our systems. We must also strive to include the voices of the local community, of educators at all levels and of other stakeholders.
Accountability means each district assessing their needs, setting goals to address them and getting input from the public and stakeholders along the way. It also means following up on whether those goals are being met and planning for ways to address disparities between goals and results.
Our students need something different and our educators need support. We are committed to doing this with you. Leading with you. Learning with you. We need educators, community, and districts to lead. We need to know your needs. We will tackle the challenges of implementation together. We will seek grace from one another. We will learn from our errors, iterate on them, and improve together.
In her inaugural address back in January, Governor Brown decried our current support for schools by saying:
“At one time, every Oregonian was proud of our education system. It was a promise that if you chose to put down roots in Oregon, your children would receive a world-class education and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. But over the past couple of decades, we have failed to deliver on that promise.
We have not significantly increased per pupil spending since the early 1990s. While other states were able to invest in schools and take advantage of economic recoveries, Oregon has had to rely on state funds to backfill local property taxes.
How our state provides for the needs of our children is a marker of who we are as a community. After years of underinvestment, it’s going to take more than just additional funding to bring our schools back to a level we can be proud of.
We have failed our students of color and we have left rural Oregon behind. Now is the time to close that opportunity gap.
Our education system is in desperate need of repair, reform, and reinvestment. It’s like an old house that hasn’t been maintained. The longer we wait, the more it will cost to fix it.”
In that speech Governor Brown put out a challenge to provide more early learning opportunities, reduce class size, add to instructional time, meet student’s mental and behavioral health needs and bring back a well-rounded education.
Now we have an historic opportunity and responsibility to meet that challenge. I’m excited to be on this journey with you.