differ with the Governor on which educational priorities to fund. And I fault
him for what he is not saying about the need for world language and study
abroad programs. He just missed another opportunity to articulate such a
Governor Kulongoski spoke Friday (11/14/08) to the Oregon School Boards Association. Betsy Hammond’s Oregonian article “Governor, citing economy, urges delay of new Oregon graduation requirements” (here) says:
Gov. Ted Kulongoski said Friday that he wants to delay Oregon's new graduation requirements, giving a pass to this year's high school freshmen, who are supposed to prove their skills in reading, math, speaking and writing to get a diploma.
The more rigorous requirements were enacted by a unanimous Oregon Board of Education in June after nearly three years of study. Joining 26 other states, the Oregon board said schools need to get all students up to par in so-called essential skills essential before sending them to college and careers.
But Kulongoski, citing the sharp economic downturn, told hundreds of local school board members Friday that he doesn't think he will be able to find millions of dollars to hire more teachers and upgrade schools to get students to higher standards.
First, Governor Kulongoski is right to be cautious about what revenues will be available. The economy is in a dive. Backing off the graduation requirements is not a big deal for me. I’ve wondered why the Governor, and the business community, thought knowledge of algebra and plane geometry was more important than fluency in a second language in today’s global economy. More engineers and scientist yes, but algebra for everyone, really, just why?
Second, I learned from Hammond’s article just how much upgrading Oregon’s graduation requirement will cost, and I have other priorities for those dollars. The Governor has his priorities, shared presumably by many educators and much of the organized business community, and I have mine. This is what Hammond says:
A panel of Oregon educators convened by the state estimated it would cost about $266 million in 2009-11 to equip schools to get all students to meet the new graduation requirements.
The primary costs would be to hire more math, science and reading teachers and to provide more training for teachers already on the job, said Brian Reeder, assistant state superintendent who headed the project. Oregon schools would also need to hire more counselors and provide extra tutoring time -- the equivalent of six weeks of summer school for the one-tenth of students at greatest risk of not graduating -- to get the job done, his panel found.
Understand that I think the global economy is undergoing profound, revolutionary changes. The general process is called “globalization.” Improvements in communication and transportation are bringing peoples all over the world into one competitive economy. The rise of China is just part of the emergence of 2-3 billion more people in the global middle class over the next thirty years. This is the world today’s students will live in. Oregon should respond, I believe, by upgrading its world languages and study abroad programs, with an initial emphasis on Mandarin and China.
So, I would reallocate $3 million (more would be better) of the $266 million, or even of the basic school funding, to develop more Mandarin programs (see my budget proposal here).
For no budget costs in this shrinking revenues environment, the Governor could support my proposed High School Study Abroad Scholarship Program. (here) In doing so he could acknowledge the changing global economy and that he has a vision of how world language and study abroad programs could prepare Oregon students to survive and thrive in the intensely competitive future.
It’s past time he told the Oregon School Board Association what’s really happening globally and what we really need to do. Another missed opportunity.