When we left off last week, we had reported the Corvallis Public School District was facing budget cuts between $2 and $6 million – and that District teachers were rallying to retain 50 staffers likely to be cut if something, anything, doesn’t happen. At press time, not much has changed.
According to the School District, it’s primarily state budget decisions driving the shortfall.
It’s Not Just Corvallis: According to the Oregon School Boards Association, school administrators statewide have been telling any lawmaker that will listen that the State School Fund needs $10.3 billion in funding to avoid cuts at their districts. The governor’s budget proposes $9.9 billion in funding.
So, we reached out to our area’s state legislators for comment, Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, and Rep. Dan Rayfield.
First, the Senator: Gelser Blouin said, “I am committed to strong, high quality public schools for every student and the funding needed to make that happen. At this point, I can’t identify a specific number because we are still waiting for the May Revenue forecast to get clarity about the resources we have available for the 2023-25 biennium. Unlike the Federal Government, we must operate with a balanced budget so we cannot allocate resources beyond expected revenues.”
“Regardless of the ultimate K12 number, I unequivocally agree with local educators and classified staff that the Corvallis School Board should do everything in its power to avoid reductions in staffing and services, including making use of the ending fund balance and other reserve funds in order to hold students harmless. Given the very real concerns about safety and climate in our schools, I’ve been alarmed to see proposed reductions that seem to disproportionately behavior support, special education and key classified staff members that are essential to keeping our schools safe and welcoming to all. We passed the Student Success Act with the expectation that investments in these kinds of programs would be made and maintained, and I hope that the Board keeps faith with that.”
The Senator Says There’s Another Challenge: Gelser Blouin also said, “One challenge I’m facing this session is that at the same time the Oregon School Boards Association is asking for additional resources, it is also resisting all proposals to improve transparency, accountability and safety in local schools. Among initiatives they have formally opposed include ensuring classified staff have access to appropriate training and the ability to read the behavior and IEP plans of students they are directly responsible to support, ensuring that ODHS is able to complete investigations of child abuse that occur at school, allowing ODE to take action when local school districts violate federal law, and legislation that would ensure there is a remedy for parents when school districts violate federal nondiscrimination laws by unlawfully refusing to allow students to come to school—even while they are receiving full funding to support them.”
Our State Rep Happens to be Speaker of the Oregon House: Rep. Rayfield said, “Lifting up our schools and educators, and improving learning outcomes for students in a meaningful way is a key priority this session, and doing so relies on stable and sufficient education funding.”
“Our current budget framework invests $9.9 billion in the State School Fund, a $600 Million increase from this biennium’s total State School Fund allocation of $9.3 billion. This historic investment, paired with leveraging Student Success Act funding and investing in early learning and literacy by modernizing curriculum resources and increasing educator preparedness, ensuring more equitable learning, and expanding educational and tutoring opportunities for students this session, illustrates state leaders’ understanding of the importance of ensuring high quality, equitable education in Oregon.”
He also echoes a common theme that’s started to emerge, generally, throughout the statehouse this last week, saying “We are undertaking this budget process in an environment with significant economic uncertainty. We will have another revenue forecast in May which will give us a lot of useful information and guide us as we make final budget decisions.”
Higher Ed Also Having Problems: Linn-Benton Community College, facing its own budget woes, has gone from axing underperforming majors and departments to now dumping its popular computer science program. They’ve also closed their Sweet Home campus.
And then there’s OSU and the state’s other six public universities – they’ve put the state’s Joint Subcommittee on Education on notice that with inflation and all, they’ll need an added $100 million if they are to avoid further tuition hikes.
Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey told lawmakers that the current funding level will not be sufficient for the schools in the next biennium given inflation.
“This means that students will have to fund inflation on the majority of our budgets,” he said.
And now, onto a happier and downright inspiring topic…
The Annual Golden Apple Awards – the Envelope Please: Each year, the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation recognizes a few select District educators for their outstanding contributions to students and the school communities where they work.
The Golden Apple Awards, according to the School District, celebrate that behind every successful student stands extraordinary educators.
So, here now, this year’s winners…
Leigh-Ann Russell, Special Education Teacher, Corvallis High School
Leigh-Ann Russell’s work as SPED teacher, case manager, colleague, and student/family advocate epitomizes what the Golden Apple stands for. The parents of two CHS students say, “Ms. Russell is an amazing trauma-informed educator whose passion is to help her students be successful in the classroom and beyond!”
One of the traits that helps her work so well with her students is her ability to connect one-on-one and recognize that she is teaching her kids at the same time that they are teaching her and helping her to learn how to help them. She listens to students, and she is relentless in trying new approaches. Leigh-Ann is a lifelong learner and passionately committed to learning as many ways to support students as possible.
Russell continually goes above and beyond to solve the mystery of individual student needs. She gets to know students on a personal level and uses their strengths to maximize positive outcomes. Russell is not afraid to take on the district’s most complex students, and she approaches them with compassion, tenacity, and curiosity. These traits positively impact her students and the culture of the school she serves.
Liz Wieland, 6th-grade Science and Theater Arts Teacher, Cheldelin Middle School
Elizabeth Wieland is a wonderful educator who goes the extra mile for students, staff, and her school. We admire and appreciate Liz’s courage to face issues and work to fix them. Wieland gets things done, and she cares about the work she does. Students love Wieland and know she has their best interests at heart. She is extremely student-centered and provides a safe place for kids at our school. She is a huge student advocate and always works to see the best in her students. Wieland works well with all kinds of kids and is the epitome of the warm demander for kids struggling with behavior challenges.
Wieland has built CMS’s theater program from scratch. While this program serves all of the kids, it provides a special place for students who need a creative, family-like atmosphere. She goes above and beyond with the theater program, writing grants, using some of her own money, and teaching kids to take leadership roles of all kinds.
Wieland brings creativity to her 6th-grade science classes and constantly looks for student-centered activities to bring science to life and meet the needs of different learners. She constantly contributes to school improvement projects by serving on multiple committees, including the theme team, the equity team, and the behavior committee. She is always planning events to improve school morale and help people feel recognized and valued. Liz is both an amazing teacher/student advocate and a teaching partner/collaborator.
Jenny Smith, Educational Assistant, College Hill High School
Jenny Smith is truly one of a kind. Her position title is Education Assistant, but she is so much more. “School mom, best tutor ever, graduation coordinator, student store manager, trusted friend, and someone who believes in me” are just some of the ways that kids talk about her on a daily basis. Jenny believes that each and every student is capable of something incredible and that they are all worthy of dignity, respect, and challenge. “Walking through her classroom and hearing her talking with students is truly inspirational. I love it most when I hear her tell kids all the things that they can accomplish in the future,” according to one observer.
She arrives at work daily full of hope for the future, passion for helping her students achieve, and a caring and flexible heart. Never one to get caught up in what cannot be done, Jenny is relentless in her pursuit of student success. She regularly has students who stay beyond the school day to wrestle through challenging math content and celebrate success. She is a marvel. When you see Jenny with students, it is clear they appreciate her, and she values them. She has a way of naming each of her students as strong, capable, insightful, kind, and valuable.
Jenny’s work extends well beyond her classroom as well. She is the College Hill graduation coordinator, planning and preparing a uniquely special celebration for students who have overcome incredible challenges and emerged as strong, talented, and kind. ”She is flexible, kind, intelligent, honest, willing to have hard conversations with kids, loves our staff, and is a pleasure to work beside. Her smile and warm greeting make my day, and I am so grateful to have her as a colleague,” said another co-worker.
David Abrams, 5th-grade Teacher, Adams Elementary School
“There are incredible teachers throughout the Corvallis School District, but I am nominating David Abrams at Adams for the Golden Apple because of his dedication to and empathy for his students. He is passionate about making sure learning is accessible for all his students and varies his teaching styles to make sure everyone in his classroom has the opportunity to learn,” according to one clearly admiring observer.
He is very thoughtful about what he says and how he says it and has a unique mix of humor, consideration, and kindness that motivates students navigating the preteen years. He makes it his mission to build his students up every day, and it’s no coincidence that his students leave his classroom glowing with self-confidence. David’s ability to meet students where they are without making them feel like they are standing out from the rest of his students is incredible.
Every day witnessing Abrams teach has been such an honor and privilege. Teaching is a natural outlet for David’s creative, caring, and compassionate personality. He is someone who regularly goes beyond himself to bring engaging instruction and deep learning to students from a variety of backgrounds. Students listen, trust, and connect with him. Abrams’ calm, logical, and systematic approach to working with students is rare and much appreciated by all who work with him. “What I find most valuable in David is his willingness to be an exemplary model of Teamwork, community, and shared listening for students and colleagues,” wrote one observer.
The Golden Apple Awards were established more than two decades ago by local philanthropist Mario Pastega through the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation.
Oregon State University Pet Day: In case you missed our paper’s earlier reporting on this, Saturday, May 6 is Pet Day at OSU. It’s a full day of furry and feathery fun – and some scaly stuff too. 5k run, animal demonstrations, pet costume and photo contests, and way more. Plus, a tour of the veterinary facilities if you’re interested. Kids love this event! It runs from 10 am to 3 pm, click here for details.
Also, in Case You Missed It: Last Friday, our newspaper endorsed Chris Hawkins for School Board, and a no vote on the $110 million Community Safety Tax, Measure 2-140.
The newspaper concluded that regardless of how one might feel about a new jail, a new $40 million sheriff’s office and $8 million district attorney’s office is too much of an ask at a time of constricting education budgets and an affordable housing crisis. In short, the paper believes voters should’ve had the option to vote for the jail on its own.
When it came to the School Board race, it seemed like the candidates didn’t particularly disagree on much, they just prioritized differently, and that to us at the paper, Hawkins’ priorities and impressive experience as an educator were more aligned to the District’s present needs. Click here to read The Advocates full endorsements.