John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The conventional wisdom in Oregon is that we’ve been “disinvesting” in public schools during the past decade. Portland Public Schools were lampooned in Doonsbury a few years back, and the number of portable classrooms in suburban districts is supposedly proof that we face an educational funding crisis.

There’s just one thing wrong with this image: it’s completely wrong. Tax spending for schools has been going up for years. But many journalists are so used to repeating the dominant story line that they can’t change their reporting even when the facts are right in front of them.

For instance, in a May 25th page-one story in The Oregonian, the headline read, “Legislators agree on schools K-12 budget; a panel settles on $6.245 billion, a significant increase after years of cuts in Oregon.”

Yet later in the story a bar graph clearly shows that school funding has gone up from $4.6 billion for the 1999-2001 biennium to $6.245 proposed for the 2007-09 biennium, with regular increases during most of the intervening years. That’s a 36% increase over an eight-year period, not quite the same thing as a “spending cut.”

The fact is, Oregon schools are well-funded and have been for years. It’s time for journalists to put the “disinvestment” myth to bed and start asking why we aren’t getting better results.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.


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