By Victoria Marshall
With the 2022 school year now over, parents have the right and responsibility to ask, “Can we do better?”
According to World Population Review, Oregon ranks 40th of the 50 states in education overall. The NEA is more generous and has Oregon Public Schools listed 26th for the 2019-20 school year. Each organization has a different methodology to measure. Neither is where it should be. Let’s look at some of the reasons.
Public school supporters claim that public schools have been underfunded for decades. However, in recent years public school funding in Oregon has risen dramatically.
Part of this increase comes from the “Student Success Fund,” which is funded by the Corporate Activities Tax signed into law by Gov. Brown on May 16, 2019. Together with increased federal funding and money from the Oregon General Fund, spending in Oregon has risen to $11,340 per pupil, or $6.91 billion annually. (Educationdata.org)
The mediocre academic performance of Oregon public schools was not fixed by record public school spending. Oregon Secretary of State auditors recently released a “systemic risk report,” which highlighted how political and education leaders focused on improving education processes over educational results. The report revealed, “In November 2021, ODE released data showing more than a quarter of Oregon’s public high school ninth graders had not passed enough classes to be on track to graduate in the 2020-21 school year, a drop of 12 percentage points from 2018-19.”
(Editor’s note: To learn more about this audit, see “State Audit: Oregon Leaders are a Hindrance to Improving Education” article on Page 1.)
Lower academic expectations also play a part. In 2021, the Oregon Legislature suspended the requirement that students prove academic proficiency for three years.
Also, non-academic teaching has contributed to the decline in academic performance. This includes topics such as critical race theory, gender identity and climate change.
Parents are rightly concerned about teaching on transgenderism. Activist teachers and counselors have encouraged children to change genders and not tell their parents. Abigail Martinez, speaking at a recent Heritage Foundation panel discussion, shared the tragic story of her daughter Yaeli’s suicide. Her daughter’s school was instrumental in removing her daughter from Martinez’s home and encouraging her to “transition.” The result was her daughter’s death. School officials told Yaeli that she would never be happy unless she was a boy. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident in public schools.
How are things locally?
Our two public school districts have seen a decrease in enrollment, while Josephine County has seen an increase in population. District 7 has lost nearly 500 students over the past two years, Three Rivers roughly 400.
Parents have seen this and have voiced their concerns to both districts.
At the July 29, 2021, Three Rivers School Board meeting, the public made clear they saw inappropriate presentation of sexual content in instruction and library books, CRT, blending of the two genders in bathrooms and lack of focus on academics of immediate concern. The superintendent told parents the district would lose federal and state funding if it did not follow state education policies.
Oregon public schools can help children make life-altering decisions while keeping the information from parents. According to Family Nurse Practitioner Havilah Brodhead, “In Oregon, a patient can start a medication for depression or anxiety as young as age 14 without parental consent, get medical care such as a vaccine or physical exam at age 15 without parental consent and get birth control at any age without parental consent.” (Source: https://myeagle.us/8-1)
During the past school year, students at Grants Pass High School conducted walkouts during school hours. In November, students protested the rehiring of two educators previously fired for proposing gender-separated bathrooms. In May, about a hundred students protested in support of abortion following the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Teachers, counselors and other school staff can encourage children to pretend they are something they are not. And parents often don’t even know. At a recent Education Alternative expo, two moms of Medford middle schoolers relayed incidents affecting their sons that caused them to search out options.
One mom’s son was bitten by a student who claims to be a “furry.” The “furry” wore an animal suit and was led around on a leash by another student.
The other mom described how uncomfortable her 12-year-old son got while a girl who claims to be a boy undressed in the boy’s locker room. When her son complained he was told he could move to a backroom of the gym to change his clothes.
Can local public schools improve? Yes, but changes can’t happen overnight in large educational systems.
Grants Pass School District #7 hired Tim Sweeny to serve as superintendent beginning July 1. According to the district’s website, Mr. Sweeny “has a proven track record of supporting staff, attending to the needs of families, and increasing opportunities for students that engage and inspire them for post-secondary plans.”
In November, Oregon will elect a new governor, the official who is in charge of the Oregon Department of Education. Depending on who is elected, there could be major changes at the ODE – or the status quo could continue. It’s too soon to tell, and any changes could take a few years to be implemented.
What about your children?
Now is a great time to talk to your children about the past school year. Your child is probably bewildered from the masking mandates, school closures and sexuality education lessons. He or she may have experienced an educational setback because of these ill-advised policies. Find out if your children are open to alternatives to traditional public school education.
In most cases, your children will be safer at home or a private school. No parents should have to worry about their child’s mental health and physical safety while attending public school.
Your child is not an ODE subject. Your child is not a social experiment. Your child is an American citizen with rights. You might be surprised that they want to try another option.
What are some schooling options?
Private, charter and homeschooling are on the rise in Josephine County.
Logos Public Charter School has increased from 300 students in 2010 to 1,210 student in 2022 with impressive academic achievements including winning the High School State of Jefferson Scavenger Hunt sponsored by SOU this year. The school expects to continue to grow. Logos serves students from Shady Cove to Merlin. It is a public charter school.
New Hope Christian has increased enrollment from 160 to 340 over the past three years. Most private schools have waiting lists.
Grants Pass School District 7 is graduating its first class of seniors from its online GPFlex program.
There are numerous homeschooling groups and pods sprouting up in Josephine County. Ask around.
Now is the time to assess your children’s education. Can you do better? Do you trust how guidance counsellors might guide your child? Are your children getting the academic, vocational and socialization skills needed for success in life?
You are not alone to question the status quo of local public schools. You have the authority to remove your children from traditional public schools and try something new. There are more schooling options available today than ever before. Do your homework this summer and be ready for schooling excellence this fall.
Victoria Marshall is a retired English teacher and debate coach.