Will an Education Czar solve Oregon’s education problems?

Governor Kitzhaber’s latest attempt to reform education in Oregon took a major step forward today with his Oregon Education Investment Board’s hire of Rudy Crew as the state’s first Chief Education Officer, our very own education czar.

Not to be too cynical, Dr. Crew may have the best of intentions, but he’s signed on for an impossible job. Integrating pre-K through graduate school into one well-oiled machine will be a super-political exercise, but he’s admitted that he didn’t pay much attention to the politics in his previous education positions in other states. Ideally, education shouldn’t be political, but as long as taxes fund the system and government builds and operates the schools then politics will be a more important consideration than what’s best for individual children.

Dr. Crew apparently is supportive of charter schools and introducing technology and online learning into the system (positions the teachers union won’t like at all). In January he was named president of Revolution K12, an education software company in California. Elaborating on one of the benefits of working for such a company, here’s what Crew said in a February interview:

You got an opportunity to think and develop and design in ways that were not inhibited by the natural impediments in public schools. You don’t have to go through committees and board reports and so forth. There is a different way by which things get developed, and there is a more nimble way that things get brought into the market.

Good thoughts, but they’re anathema to the Status Quo Lobby, better known as the teachers union.

The teachers union will be more supportive of Crew’s opposition to real school choice; choice that includes private schools. It was this opposition that got him fired from his job as chancellor of New York City’s public schools in 1999.

Exactly how this will all shake out is unknowable, but the end result is pretty clear. I predict this effort will be as successful as Dr. Kitzhaber’s first big education reform effort when he was Senate President in 1990 —- the Education Act for the 21st Century with its CIM and CAM tests (long since abandoned).

Who said “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”?

For my analysis of what’s wrong with Governor Kitzhaber’s Oregon Education Investment Board reform effort, and with our monopoly public education system itself, see:

Oregon Education Investment Board – Top Down on Steroids
Three Strikes and You’re Out: Replacing Top-Down Education Control with School Choice
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
Forced Participation: Public Education’s Fatal Flaw

About Steve Buckstein

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17 Responses to Will an Education Czar solve Oregon’s education problems?

  1. T. T. says:

    Its a Jetson’s World, by Jeffrey Tucker comes to mind.

  2. Neil R. Huff says:

    I’m uncertain when kindergartin was added to the public educ system. However, for many years there was no publicly financed kindergartins. Perhaps no one over age 55 or 60 attended one. There were always private kindergartins. However, most children did not attend these. Also I have no idea how the notion that a child of normal intelligence can not be tought to read in First grade. There were very few kids back then that couldn’t manage to acquire reading skills in first grade at age 6 yrs. Also we learned to do simple sums.

    If kindergartin was removed from the public education systems how much money and other resources would be saved? Would those saving equal the current short fall or reduce these to manageable proportions?

    • Steve Buckstein says:

      Neil, I don’t know when Kindergarten was added to the public school system, but I’m over 60 and did attend a half-day Kindergarten in Portland.

      Removing Kindergarten wouldn’t come close to closing what the teachers unions and others claim is a $2 to $3 BILLION dollar shortfall in Oregon’s K-12 system. They get those numbers from a faulty Oregon Education Model that is a theoretical attempt to determine how much money is needed to get 90% of Oregon students to “benchmarks.” You can read our analysis of the model here:

  3. Neil R. Huff says:

    Why doesn’t some intrepid school district give it a try and see exactly how it affects their bottom line? I have read numerous articles about teachers’ unions and their entrenched power and ultimate veto over just about everything involved in public education that harms their position.

    Has anyone considered union breaking? Since these unions are by now a contentious force and mainly concerned with enhancement of their own income and maintaining and expanding their grasp on the system, why not go after them? If they are no longer an asset to public education, but rather a major stumbling block to rationalizing the system, why put up with these unions?

    It appears to me there are clearly defined lines of battle here.

    • Steve Buckstein says:

      I believe Kindergarten is now a legislative requirement for Oregon public school districts.

      Cascade is working to promote a Right to Work law in Oregon which would allow teachers to opt out of the union and not pay dues. Short of that, there may be an initiative on the 2014 ballot prohibiting state and local governments (including school districts) from deducting union dues from worker paychecks. Both these options would help weaken the hold teachers unions have on the public school system.

  4. Neil R. Huff says:

    Gratifying information! One other point. I have read in several articles about teacher qualifications in Japan, Korea, and Singapore and perhaps these relate to China as well. I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is, it may be a factor in our economic decline. In these Asian nations teachers are selected from the top tier of graduates. Only the brightest are permitted to teach. I feel fairly sure that in the US and perhaps in western Europe as well, the teaching profession does not attract the best scholars. Since we must now compete in the global market with these Asian nations, improving the quality of our public school teachers seems imperative. Would raising this bar also weaken the unions? My intuition suggests it would.

  5. Neil Huff says:

    The other aspect of the public school crisis I don’t understand is why school selection has become such a hot topic? Years ago, a child went to the nearest 1-12 school. They were assigned a school by the school district I assume. There was always private schools available for those families wishing to use these. But, the nearest public school to the parent’s residence was where the child went. I don’t recall that this system in Long Beach, CA or in KFalls Oregon was ever a problem. It isn’t in northern VA (McLean and Annandale) where two of my daughter’s live! They send their children to the nearest public school and the children thrive and learn and there appears to be no problems with having the grandchildren assigned to the nearest school.

    What is the underlying issue of the school assignment in Oregon? It escapes me!
    What has changed in the intervening years that makes school choice such a contentious issue?

    • Steve Buckstein says:

      What has changed is that the public school monopoly has gotten steadily worse since about 1964 when the US Department of Education and teachers unions began exerting power over the system. Now, where you can afford to live often determines the quality of the public school your children are assigned to.

      In most other aspects of life where you live bears much less relationship to the quality of services you can access. Everyone is free to shop at whatever supermarket they wish. No need to shop at the closest one if it doesn’t meet your needs. But in public education many people can’t afford to both pay the taxes and tuition for school choices different from the one assigned them by the local public school district. School choice has become the defining issue of educational quality.

  6. Neil Huff says:

    In other words what has happened is the formation of Ghettos in our cities. As these tend to be tied to an income or racial base and at the current rate of LEGAL immigration (90,000 a month) all US cities will eventually be organized along lines of income/ethnicty/race. Since all testing tends to bear out a persisting IQ difference between races placing the burden of equal outcome on schools by such means as school selection seems unrealistic. Moreover there is the matter of who pays for transporting kids from one end of town to the other? With the cost of fuel spiraling ever upward, this is not small change.

    I do not doubt that the intransigent unions and the disconnection of high officals to the reality of our classrooms is a major impediment to improving the over all quality of education. But the overwhelming factor is an undeniable demographic change in the country. By immigration, and differential fertility rates the nature of the population is changing and these changes tend to be lowering the IQ of the general population. If school selections means more diversity in each school and given the fact that such diversity does not enhance school performance, I am unconvinced that school selection unattended by some means of culling out the unintelligent and unruly is going to solve any major problem.

  7. Neil Huff says:

    Further on this topic. I read recently about one magnate school for gifted chidren that was determined by the diversity police to be discriminating against non whites, as they were not proportionately represented in the student body of the school. The school was ordered to correct the situation. The only way to accomplish this transition to a more PC sudent body was to lower the standards for admission and reduce the complexity of the curriculum. By complying, the school is now little different than the other schools in the district.

    My question is: How will superior schools in Portland or any other Oregon city escape this dilemma with a free choice system once it is discovered that black and Hispanic children are under represented?

  8. Neil Huff says:

    Humm..I seem to be discussing with myself, here. Oh well.. I have a suggestion for improving Oregon’s school system. Send a team of observers to Germany and see how they are managing a highly successful education system. They appear to be doing it right as opposed to our doing it wrong, and at great cost.

    We Americans have such an inflated conceit concerning our own (failing) institutions, I suppose the idea of looking elsewhere for an efficient model to emulate never occurs to our complaisant, over paid and puffed-up pedagogues.

  9. Neil Huff says:

    A top down system of control, and if they aren’t team players they are axed? Central planning, anyone?

    All this smacks of a single doctrine controlled by ‘Soviets’, five year plans, a highly centralized bureaucracy seemingly not answerable to anyone, but maybe to the governor. Hasn’t all this been tried in other countries with disasterous consequences? As we appear to move every closer to a one party political system, who can be surprised to find all power and authority, especially over education, becoming centralized? Marx theorized that there is an inevitable historical progression at work in the evolution of any political economy: that what we are seeing is an unavoidable consequence of the capital system.

    I guess we need another revolution.

  10. Neil Huff says:

    Continuing to think about the growth of non Govt schools…their development and expansion along with home schooling- suggests a devolution of America’s education system backward toward the nonsystem that preexisted public schools. Instead of building and refining and improving public education, educators seem to have given up on the idea and are tossing in the towel and in effect, telling parents: “public schools are in a mess and can not be repaired…you’re better off on your own”.

  11. Neil Huff says:

    While I am uncertain there is any real dialogue going on in these pages, nevertheless I continue posting. I read just yesterday in Eugene’s Register Guard the scandalously low percentages of students sucessfully completing four yrs of high school. Last yr in Eugene 66% graduated (down from 71% in 2010-11. While in Springfield the numbers went from a guaduate rate of 62% in 010-011, to 62% last year- a slight, very slight gain.

    Pardon my impurtinence, but discussing school choice, and scholarships in the face of over-whelming evidence of total structual failure is tantamount of, as they say, rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Everything being hopefully suggested as remedial appear to ignore the reality of total catastophe in the state’s public education system.

  12. Neil Huff says:

    A friend who has served on his school district board (in OR) for many yrs told me in a recent conversation on this topic that there is no evidence showing that charter schools or other similar non public schools have thus far demonstrated better results than public schools. He also told me that charter school receive a big helping of public funds to get started. Half a million was mentioned, and they may use these funds anyway they wish. Using public funds these schools are no better positioned than public schools to filter out poor prospects or those with behavior problems. In fact they must provide the very same additional aid to the disadvantaged or ‘other abled’ as public schools. Thus they face the same impediments and issues public schools are dealing with. I’ve yet to see any proof that school choice will solve our education problems. It simply adds one more level of complexity to our teetering education edifice.

  13. Neil Huff says:

    Here is an excerpt from a current article about skill or craft specific post secondary education in the US. It is an area of education/training that presents an unregulated and rather chaotic picture nation-wide. It certainly indicates where more support by the states may lead to a more productive cohort of K-12 graduates. Especially if more emphases is given technical/craft training in high school and these programs linked to businesses requiring these skills.


    “The challenge has been that there is a segment of higher education regulations and institutions that look at work-based learning as of lesser importance, while the goal is to see this as an integrated system,” Sandi Vito, a state labour official, said at an event here Wednesday. “Work-based learning isn’t ‘lesser than’, and it should be combined with academic learning as well.”

    According to a 2012 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, about 65 million people in the United States workforce have an industry certificate or a license to practice. Currently, one in 10 workers reports such a certificate as their highest level of education, according to the OECD study.

    “Employers don’t think they have a very receptive audience in the higher education world, and that’s a problem,” Andrew Kelly, the director of the Higher Education Reform programme at the American Enterprise Institute, a consevative think tank, said at Wednesday’s event. “At a CTE, its pretty clear why you are there: you’re there to get a job.”

    In 2010, 1.5 million postsecondary CTE credentials outlining specific skills acquired through CTE programmes were awarded. Half of such credentials given out today are from public two-year schools – as opposed to more traditional four-year colleges or universities – and the rest are from private technical businesses and trade institutions.

    “The overarching recommendation from the report is the need for the U.S. to strategically pursue more quality, coherence and transparency in the U.S. postsecondary system,” the study states.

  14. Neil Huff says:

    I have been reading about the miracle worker, Dr. Crew, and his notorious job hoping and lack of real accomplishment anywhere that could not have been done by existing staff and committees. One must wonder what the Governor thought he was getting when he hired someone with that strange background? Dr. Crew is so obviously running a game on every employer! Was he hired because he was black and the Governor simply ignored the man’s highly questionable background in the interest of being seen as politically correct?

    Like everything else involving public education money is wasted, and the top heavy system becomes ever more complex and further removed from dealing with the actual problem.

    To wit: How to create a system that guarantees an equal outcome under the circumstances of radically changing demographics? Finding ways and means of ensuring equal percentages of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Whites graduate in the 12-K system WITHOUT dumbing down the curriculum to the lowest common denominator. Sorry folks..it is Mission Impossible that has been handed to the teachers and administrators. There is no way this can be accomplished without the US’s international standing in public education falling to the level of say, South Africa or Afghanistan. Diversity is NOT our strength and mindlessly repeating this mantra isn’t going to make it true.

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