- Six or more licensed/certified educators currently practicing in Oregon public schools
- Representatives from education institutions, nonprofits, professional and philanthropic organizations with expertise in the direct provision and support of high-quality preparation and professional learning for teachers and administrators, including equity and cultural competency
- Representatives of the public at-large
- One member of the Oregon State Senate designated by the Senate President
- One member of the Oregon House of Representatives designated by the Speaker of the House
- The Chief Education Officer
- The Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction
- The Executive Director of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission
- The Early Learning System Director
The creation of this committee brought up some questions for me.
What was the impetus for creating this council?
The first paragraph of the governor’s executive order states the following: “Every Oregon
student deserves a caring, competent and culturally responsive educator in the classroom. A
diverse, well supported educator workforce is critical to ensuring that every Oregon student
graduates high school with a plan for his or her future.” While I agree that there is a huge need
in our state to recruit a more diverse educator workforce and provide more culturally responsive
curriculum, the statement that every student deserves a “caring, competent” teacher implies that
not having caring, competent teachers is a big problem in our schools, as big a problem as not
having a diverse workforce and a culturally responsive curriculum. I find that implication
troubling, as it continues the worn out trope that blames teachers for all the ills of society. Low
graduation rates may have a number of causal factors, including a narrowed curriculum that
focuses on a single path to success and a lack of funding in our schools. Neither of those two
factors are the result of anything that has been done or not done by teachers.
Is this council continuing the work of the now defunct OEIB?
HB 3233, passed in 2013, declares the Oregon Education Investment Board, a failed and
unpopular group which consisted of many business leaders and very few (exactly one) actual
K-12 educators, to be in charge of the Network of Quality Teaching and Learning. Now that the
legislature has allowed the OEIB to sunset, how is this work continuing? Does this put the
Oregon Department of Education in charge? If so, I find this very concerning. Since the
passage of Oregon SB 552 which removed the elected office of Superintendent of Public
Instruction and turned that job over to the governor, who then appoints a Deputy Superintendent
to head the Oregon Department of Education, we have had less and less responsiveness to
public input regarding Oregon’s public education system and more and more influence in
decision making by lobbying groups which are funded with a particular agenda in mind. For
example, Stand for Children, holds great sway in Salem at the ODE. Stand for Children has
received millions in grants from the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates has a very specific and
particular agenda around education which includes the Common Core, high stakes
standardized tests, teacher evaluations based on student test scores, and
“personalized learning” which really means removing “persons” from the equation and having
students spend loads of time working on apps and online programs which collect vast amounts
of data to be shared in a Longitudinal Data System which has been questioned by many.
Does the governor REALLY want to hear what teachers and parents have to say?
How will regular people like parents and teachers be able to participate? Most parents work at a job during the regular business hours of the legislature. The governor’s executive order states that “council members are not entitled to reimbursement of expenses or per diem…” While the order calls for at least six educators currently practicing in schools to serve, I am wondering if school districts will at least be reimbursed for the required substitutes any participating classroom teachers will need. If not, will teachers then be required to use their personal days allotted during the school year to participate? Most of us have only three. Will districts be willing to cover substitute costs for teachers to participate? Will parents who wish to serve be expected to take vacation days from their jobs to do so? Will their employers be willing to pick up the tab for their absence? Will any of the council meetings be held outside the traditional 9 to 5, Monday through Friday workday in order to allow parents and teachers, regular working folks who are not paid lobbyists or government officials whose workday would provide for them to easily attend, to be at the table?
Who are these “nonprofits… and philanthropic organizations” that will be allowed to participate?
I have already expressed my concern over Stand for Children’s participation and inordinate
influence in Oregon’s educational policy realm. No one elected anyone from Stand for Children
to anything. No one elected Bill Gates. He doesn’t even live in Oregon. Neither are many of the
other foundations or individuals who contribute to Stand located in Oregon. And it appears that
Megan Irwin, director of Oregon’s Early Learning Division, will already sit on the council. Irwin
majored in Journalism, has no experience as an educator and no educational background in
Early Childhood Education (which, like Journalism, is a degree program with a body of
knowledge). Irwin was appointed by Governor Kitzhaber who resigned due to investigation into
his practices of influence peddling. Irwin was also the National Expansion and Program Director
for Stand for Children before being appointed by Kitzhaber. Stand for Children operates around
the country by using funding from “philanthropic” organizations to place people who adhere to
the corporate agendas of those organizations in public office. This is how they operated in
Louisiana during a recent school board elections. This is not how I want things to run in Oregon.
While I have heard from many people that Ms. Irwin is very likable, intelligent, and a good
listener, this does not erase my concern that someone with little information about the body of
knowledge that constitutes the study of Early Childhood Education remains in charge of this
group in our state.
I would really like to believe that Governor Brown represents a clean start in Oregon educational
policy, but I worry that too many dusty corners from Kitzhaber’s tenure have been overlooked.
It’s time for spring cleaning. If Governor Brown is serious about improving teaching and
learning, she needs to listen to teachers, teacher educators, and parents. Lobbying groups for
business and philanthrocapitalits have no useful place in the conversation.