I come from a family of educators, on both sides. During my time in the military, outside of deployments, much of my time was spent teaching (granted it is very different subject matter). The educational process is extremely important to me. Unfortunately, in Oregon, our education system is broken, and it has been for a very long time. Up until the 2018-2019 school year, Oregon was well above the national average in per student spending. Currently we are below the national average. It is apparent that too much or too little money isn’t the problem. We rank near the bottom in almost every metric used to measure performance. Simply throwing money at the problem is not enough to fix a system like ours. Radical change is needed. The average teacher salary in Oregon is right on par with the national average, but our high cost of living and high rate of taxation means that in actuality our teachers are vastly underpaid. The first step to changes in our education system comes from recruiting, training, and retaining the best possible teaching staff. That happens through ensuring teachers are paid appropriately. Legislation should be introduced that increases teacher pay and benefits throughout the state. This legislation should strive for a net zero change in funding, with the pay increases being created through more efficient spending and cost saving investments in our classrooms.
Investments in public education are investments in our future. Oregon’s standard curriculum needs to be overhauled so that it actually prepares children and teens to effectively contribute to the modern world. Using a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics coupled with vocational training that doesn’t force students into a “college only” mindset is key to preparing young adults for the challenges they will face. Programs like Waukee Apex in Iowa (apex.waukeeschools.org) are looking to drastically change education in the United States and should be emulated where possible. Standardized testing is an overwhelming failure, especially when tied to funding. Creating a system where teachers are forced to teach the test instead of ensuring knowledge retention and/or mastery of the material is failing students. Standardized testing should be replaced with proficiency-based grading models that allow teachers to focus on what the needs are for each individual student. Legislation should be introduced that funds curriculum reform, removal of standardized testing, and creating proficiency-based grading models.