A recent front-page photograph in The Oregonian featured two retired public school teachers, sunbathing and enjoying their full-pay retirements in Sun City, Arizona. The accompanying story revealed that Oregon taxpayers are paying 55 percent above the national average for school employee health and retirement benefits, an additional cost of $500 million per year.
Although this is great for some teachers and retirees, it’s fraught with injustice for public school students enduring large class sizes and reduced programs, and future teachers, whose retirement packages cannot (and should not) equal their predecessors. It also harms students in non-public schools who don’t benefit from the system their families financially support.
But however egregious this problem may be, it’s a result, not the main source, of Oregon’s school budget trouble. In a monopoly environment, all taxpayer funds go only to the government schools. High costs will be the inevitable result. The best way to deal with this is to pursue options to create a more friendly environment for diverse educational choices and level the playing field between these options, such as decreasing homeschool testing requirements, offering tax credits for attendance at private and home schools, and encouraging charter schools.
With improved educational opportunities, maybe more Oregonians would be able to earn enough to relax occasionally in Sun City.
© 2006, 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.