The Oregonian’s readers no longer have any reason to believe that the paper’s editorial board will ever reflect their values—but shouldn’t readers at least be able to count on some level of intellectual consistency from the right-wing opinion writers?
It was just a couple of weeks ago that the Oregonian Editorial Board, led by staunch conservative-libertarian Erik Lukens, doubled down on their campaign to convince the Portland School Board to give away big tax breaks rather than investing funds in Portland classrooms. Lukens & Co. advocated for the board to send back $20 million in tax breaks from the recently passed teachers levy, claiming the school-funding crisis had “abated.”
At the time, we argued that the Oregonian’s editorial writers had clearly not been anywhere near a public school in the last decade. Talk to any parent, teacher, or student, and you’ll hear that the school funding crisis has anything but “abated.” Classes are still overcrowded, educational offerings are greatly diminished, and we have one of the shortest school years in the nation.
That’s because even with the modest increases in funding provided by the state, and even with the funding provided to Portland Public Schools by the teachers levy, our schools are still dramatically underfunded, especially compared to the 1990s. State funding is at least $2 billion below what experts believe we need just to reach the goal of adequacy. And much of that lack of funding is due to the massive tax breaks and giveaways that go to big corporations and the very rich.
Still, the Oregonian argues, lawmakers should giveaway more in tax breaks, rather than investing every penny they can in our classrooms.
So, imagine our shock when we read this week’s Oregonian editorial calling on Portland Public Schools to strive harder to add more instructional hours.
Greg Belisle, co-chair of the Portland School Board, thinks the state is “overreaching” when it asks Portland to meet minimum standards for instructional time.
Overreaching? That’s like calling a half-piece of toast an overfeeding. The Oregon Department of Education is well within its rights to ask local school districts to comply with state law on class time for students.
Likewise, parents and taxpayers have every reason to ask for something more than the minimum: Oregon students deserve at least 180 days of school, in keeping with the national norms for educational opportunity. The only way they’ll get it is through a lot of outside pressure to make class time a priority.
Of course students need more instructional time. They also need smaller class sizes, more one-on-one instructional opportunities, better access to technology, and funding restored to art and music classes. All of that will require a significant increase in the amount of money the state sends to Oregon school districts. One place to start would be to limit big tax breaks so that we can make sure that large corporations and the very rich are doing more to pay their fair share.
Lukens and his staff are being deeply hypocritical—not to mention intellectual dishonest—in calling for both big tax giveaways and increased spending on instructional hours. If they were serious about the latter, they’d join us in calling for a tax system that produces adequate revenue by asking for more from those who can well afford it.
When faced with self-contradictory beliefs, most normal people experience what’s known as “cognitive dissonance.” You might not be familiar with cognitive dissonance – so here’s a handy educational video to show you how it works: