School districts in Oregon face budget cuts that present opportunities to empower teachers, control costs and direct greater resources to the classroom. Districts should consider the following proposals.
Health care: In the short-term, increasing deductibles and co-payments and limiting the employer contribution are the first steps in controlling costs. As a long-term solution districts should move from the current defined benefit system to a lower-cost defined contribution system that gives employees more control over their health care dollars.
Competitive bidding for services: Districts should request bids from the private sector to compete with current providers for custodial, busing, food production and other non-core services.
Special education: The district should encourage private placement for special education students where it is less expensive and meets the goals of the Individual Education Plan and the parents.
Charter schools: Charter schools receive only 80 percent of the state per pupil funding (95 percent for high schools) and no money from local property taxes, leaving districts with more resources available for students in traditional public schools. In addition to encouraging charter school development, districts can increase revenue by leasing or selling land and buildings to charter schools.
Oregon schools have a variety of options available to address budget constraints, and the current situation is a chance to reevaluate spending priorities and focus on the core mission of educating students.
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