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Education archive

Education issue archive


Portland Public Schools capital bond delayed

Prior to the Portland Public School (PPS) Board’s decision to wait until May 2017 to ask voters to approve a capital bond for schools, the Alliance had advocated that the bond include all three high schools (Benson, Lincoln and Madison) that were originally planned for renovation, while also making priority investments to address lead contamination in the schools. The delay in sending the bond to voters will allow the PPS Board to prioritize a national search for the replacement of Superintendent Carole Smith, who announced her retirement last week. The Alliance will continue to work with PPS when they revisit the bond proposal next spring. Read the letter.
(July 2016)

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Persistent achievement gap harms Oregon's economy

The Portland Business Alliance, the Value of Jobs Coalition, and Chalkboard Project today released results of a joint study called, “Economics of the Achievement Gap; Oregon and the Portland Area.” The report looks at the economic impact over time created by the ongoing achievement gap for minority students in Oregon’s public schools.
A key finding of the study shows that if the achievement gap for Oregon’s adult population had been eliminated by 2003, the increase in economic activity in the state would have been $1.9 billion higher in 2013. With nearly half of the students in the Portland Public School system alone currently identified as minorities, the achievement gap will have an even greater impact on Oregon’s future economic vitality.
Highlights of the study, completed with ECONorthwest:

  • If the achievement gap for Oregon’s adult population had been eliminated by 2003, the increase in economic activity in Oregon would have been $1.9 billion higher in 2013.
  • If the achievement gap were eliminated over the next 10 years, Oregon’s economy would be 0.8 percent, or $1.1 billion larger, by 2035 and 3.6 percent or $3.9 billion, larger in 2060.
  • Eliminating the achievement gap in 2003 would have led to an increase in the gross state product per capita of $487, bringing the total gross state product per capita up to $54,237. This would have eliminated more than half of the gap between Oregon’s and Washington’s gross state product per capita.

To view the entire report online at
(July 2015)

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Education a focus of the 2015 Regular Legislative Session

The 2015 Regular Legislative Session adjourned sine die on July 6, 2015.  This session was marked by strong Democrat majorities in both chambers and the newly appointed Governor Brown taking over just after the legislature convened. The Alliance partners with statewide business organizations on legislative issues, including moving the agenda laid out in the Oregon Business Plan.  In addition, the Alliance plays an active role on issues in which there is a particular Portland-metro perspective.  This session, the Alliance played an active role on several education issues. 

The Alliance’s education advocacy focused on two areas: post-secondary education funding and STEM/CTE programs. Oregon’s seven public universities received $700 million this biennium, a funding increase of approximately 30 percent. While this increase was welcome, it is short of the targeted $750 million. Increasing post-secondary funding will remain a focus at the 2016 February session. This year’s increase includes $30 million directed to student affordability and support services to increase retention and graduation rates. In addition, post-secondary institutions, including universities and community colleges, received approximately $240 million in the capital construction budget.

STEM and CTE programs received $35 million in state funding for the biennium, a significant increase over prior biennia, for programs such as Regional STEM Hubs, CTE revitalization grants, STEM innovation grants and a Career Pathway Fund.  The Alliance is a member of the STEM/CTE Coalition working in support of greater investments in this area.
(July 2015)

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Alliance testifies in support of Portland Public Schools teacher contract

Alliance President & CEO Sandra McDonough testified before the Portland Board of Education in support of the newly negotiated labor contract between the Portland Association of Teachers and the Portland Board of Education. The Alliance believes the new contract will begin to lay the groundwork for achieving the following goals: improving achievement for students regardless of race and ethnicity, first language or household income; graduating more students who are responsible citizens and prepared for the next step in life; strengthening technical and career education options; and assuring that struggling students have access to the resources they need to be successful. Read the testimony.
(March 2014)

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Portland Public Schools and Portland Association of Teachers reach contract agreement

The Portland Public School board and the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) have reached an agreement regarding their labor contract. The agreement concludes ten months of negotiations and averts a strike that was scheduled to begin this week. The two groups reached a “conceptual agreement,” meaning the two sides have agreed on ways to address major issues, including salary and contractual limitation on workload and class sizes. PAT members must now vote on the contract, and the school board will vote after the union. Throughout the negotiation process, the Alliance advocated for a fair contract that puts the needs of the students first. In particular the Alliance advocated for changes in the way teachers are hired and internal openings are handled to ensure that Portland schools can compete for the best new teachers each year and that, in the case of internal restructuring, the district can use teacher experience as well as longevity as a criteria in hiring decisions. Both of these provisions are included in the final tentative agreement.
(February 2014)

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Portland Public Schools teacher contract negotiations in process

The Portland Public School Board and Portland Associations of Teachers have been in discussions in an effort to reach an agreement on the Portland Public Schools teacher contract. The School Board continues to negotiate a contract that will allow school administrators to put the best teacher in every class room by giving them the flexibility needed in the hiring and laying off process. The Alliance continues to advocate for a fair contract and garner support through its Employers for Kids Facebook page.
(January 2014)

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Portland Public Schools teacher contract negotiations continue

On Thursday, the Portland Public Schools administration declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with the Portland Association of Teachers. While talks may continue, this could lead to a strike vote later this year or early next. The Alliance Education Committee has been tracking these negotiations and has met with both school district and union leaders to hear their positions in the contract dispute. The school district has made a number of concessions over the course of the negotiations, including offering a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and removing the request to move to an eight-hour work day in exchange for extending the school year by three days.  The union has not made counter offers to the district’s proposals. The Alliance has called on both sides to come together on an agreement that will improve educational outcomes for Portland students and ensure that the best qualified teacher is in front of every classroom. As these talks proceed, the Alliance will continue to advocate for its objectives until an agreement is reached.
(November 2013)

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Portland voters’ priorities: More school days, 8-hour teacher work days, hiring of more talented teachers

During the past several months, the Alliance has been engaged in the Portland Public Schools/Portland Association of Teachers contract negotiations through its Education Subcommittee and recently released responses to a public opinion survey regarding the contract. The objective of the survey was to determine public perceptions and priorities for Portland schools and was a telephone survey of 600 registered voters living in the Portland School District.  A majority of voters support longer school years, 8-hour work days for teachers and the hiring of the most talented over more experienced teachers in order to give students a good education.Summary of survey and its findings
(October 2013)

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Alliance weighs in on Portland Public Schools, Portland Association of Teachers contract negotiations

The Alliance’s Education Committee, chaired by Alliance board member and Vice President and General Manager of CenturyLink, Chris Denzin, met with representatives from Portland Public Schools, Portland Association of Teachers, and stakeholder groups such as Stand for Children and Chalkboard Project over the past several months regarding the Portland Public Schools teacher contract negotiations.

Based on these discussions, the Alliance will support the following goals in the negotiation process:
  1. Improving student achievement should be the chief objective of the negotiating process;
  2. Reforming hiring practices so Portland schools can compete with surrounding districts for the highest quality teachers;
  3. Changing the internal hiring preferences so seniority is not the overriding factor in selecting teachers during layoffs;
  4. Changing the contract’s work rules  such as the 7.5 hour days work loads limits so students can receive a full instructional day; and
  5. Continuing to be fiscally prudent and allocating resources where they provide the greatest benefits to students.
The Portland Public School District has announced it will continue negotiations until September 30, and they have asked for a state mediator if the talks are not concluded by that date. The Alliance will continue to advocate for the objectives stated above until an agreement is reached. Read the letter.
(September 2013)

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Oregon Legislative Wrap-up

The Oregon Legislature adjourned its 2013 session on Monday, July 8. Throughout the six-month session, the Alliance played an active role in Salem, including delivering testimony, generating grassroots communications and drafting legislation. The Alliance, with our partners, was involved in lobbying and/or tracking the following legislation.

Higher Education Reform
The multi-session process of reforming the state’s post-secondary education structure, initiated by the Oregon Business Plan and supported by Oregon’s four major business associations, moved forward.
  • Local governing boards for universities
    SB 270A enables the University of Oregon and Portland State University to create a local governing board, gives Oregon State University the option to have a local board and sets up a process for other schools to have boards at a later date.
  • Post-secondary governance
    HB 3120A makes the Higher Education Coordinating Commission the single point of authority for post-secondary education in Oregon by merging existing authorities of the State Board of Education (for community colleges), the State Board of Higher Education for all seven universities and the Oregon Student Access Commission.
HB 3232B provides additional state investments to impact education outcomes in three areas: The Oregon Early Reading Program; Support for Post-Secondary Aspirations; and Connections to the World of Work. The bill includes increased funding for STEM, STEAM and career technical education programs. (STEM: Science, technology, engineering and math; STEAM: Science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Tuition Equity
The Alliance testified in support of HB 2787, which grants in-state tuition for undocumented students who have attended school in the U.S. for at least five years; studied at an Oregon high school for at least three years and graduated; and shown intention to become a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
(July 2013)

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Alliance consults with Portland Public Schools regarding contract negotiations

The Alliance’s newly formed Education Committee met with Portland Public Schools (PPS) senior staff and board members for a briefing on the status of contract negotiations with the Portland Association of Teachers. PPS representatives emphasized their focus on cost containment and on teacher placement, assessment and workload. The committee is also seeking to meet with the Portland Association of Teachers and other interest groups to understand their perspective on the negotiations. The committee will then provide recommendations about changes to the contract.
(June 2013)

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Alliance joins partners in supporting post-secondary education bills

The Alliance and its major business association partners are advocating for two post-secondary education bills currently at the Legislature, SB 270 and HB 3120. Together, these bills streamline state-level oversight of post-secondary education and allow for local governing boards at large public universities. Specifically, SB 270 establishes governing boards for University of Oregon and Portland State University, and allows Oregon State to opt in for one if it chooses to, and HB 3120 grants authorities to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Alliance President & CEO, Sandra McDonough, testified this week in support of these bills on behalf of the state’s four major business organizations. Read the letter.
(May 2013)

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Alliance committee focuses on Portland Public Schools’ contract; advocates for STEM curriculum

The Alliance’s newly formed Education Committee held its first meeting and heard from Portland Public Schools administrative staff on the district’s budget and plans regarding upcoming union negotiations. After also hearing from a parent group about the importance of STEM curriculum in schools, the committee wrote a letter of support for Benson High School and its focus on career pathways in applied fields including health and science, industry and engineering, and communications technology.  The committee will have a briefing later this month on the district’s offer to the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT). PAT will also be invited to provide a briefing to the committee. The Alliance will then issue recommendations to the board on its position regarding union negotiations between the district and PAT. Read the letter.
(May 2013)

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Alliance endorses Portland Children's Levy

The Alliance's board of directors endorsed the renewal of the Portland Children's Levy, which generates approximately $10 million with a tax of $0.4026 per $1,000 of assessed value. The Alliance endorsed the creation of the levy in 2002 and its renewal in 2008. As a local option levy, the program must be renewed every five years. The program is required to keep administrative expenses under five percent and all programs must be found to be cost effective and have a proven record of success.
(April 2013)

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Alliance supports Beaverton Schools Local Option Levy

The Beaverton School Board is proposing a five-year Local Option Levy, which could provide the school district with around $15 million per year for five years in additional operating funds to prevent teacher lay-offs and keep class sizes to a minimum. The Alliance's board of directors endorsed the levy, which will amount to $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. The school district cut its budget by $37 million in 2012 and faces an additional $11-15 million cut in 2013. The school district is one of the few districts statewide that does not pay for the six percent PERS rate and has administrative overhead costs less than half of the statewide average. Additionally, the district has been aggressive in adopting improvement strategies forwarded by the Chalkboard Project to improve student performance and teacher accountability. The levy will be up for vote on the May 21 ballot.
(April 2013)

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Study reveals $2.7 billion earnings gap between Portland-metro college-educated workers, U.S. metro average

The Value of Jobs coalition revealed a groundbreaking study examining Portland-metro’s decline in personal income per capita relative to the U.S. metro average. The findings show that Portland-metro’s college-educated workers earn 10 percent less than the U.S. average, creating a $2.7 billion earnings gap between Portland-metro and the U.S. metro average. What is the largest population segment contributing to the gap?  White, college-educated workers, and more specifically, white college-educated males who are working and earning less than their peers. This earnings gap means less money for families and public services, impacting the region’s overall quality of life.
Key takeaways:

  • Portland-metro’s college-educated workers annually earn 10 percent less than the U.S. metro average, which results in a $2.7 billion earnings gap.
  • Roughly $110 million would be available to K-12 schools in Oregon if Portland-metro’s college-educated workers earned the same amount as the U.S. metro average, which could fund more than 1,200 teachers.
  • Portland-metro’s white, college-educated 25- to 39-year-old males rank 270 out of 284 U.S. metros in the number of annual hours worked.
  • Portland-metro has 6 percent fewer white, college-educated males with business degrees compared to the U.S. metro average.
  • Portland-metro lawyers earn $42,218 less annually compared to the U.S. metro average.

This study focuses on the earnings of Portland-metro’s white, college-educated males because they are the largest contributor to the regional income gap and, from an economics point of view, the characteristics of the white, college-educated males remain relatively consistent among U.S. metro areas making comparisons easier. The coalition members want to be clear, however, that the region must focus on correcting the income gaps associated with all Oregonians.

To view the entire report online go to
(March 2013)

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Alliance, Governor Kitzhaber and other business leaders advocate for tuition equity

Alliance President & CEO Sandra McDonough participated in a press conference with Oregon Rep. Michael Denbrow, Governor John Kitzhaber and other leaders in support of the tuition equity bill. This bill, House Bill 2787, would improve access to post-secondary education and strengthen our education system, which is a key to success in growing private-sector jobs and, subsequently, improving wages and incomes for Oregon families. Read the blog post.
(February 2013)

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Alliance weighs in on Portland Public Schools & Portland Association of Teachers "Race to the Top" grant

The Alliance expressed grave disappointment at the failure of the Portland Public School Board and Portland Association of Teachers to reach an agreement regarding a $40 million "Race to the Top" grant application. The Portland Association of Teachers refused to support the use of student achievement as a component of teacher evaluation, which is one of the requirements for receiving a "Race to the Top" grant. The Alliance also asked Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew to step in and help mediate an agreement.

Read the letter to PPS and the Portland Association of Teachers.
Read the letter to Dr. Rudy Crew.
‚Äč(November 2012)

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Governor appoints Oregon's new Chief Education Officer

Governor Kitzhaber has appointed Dr. Rudy Crew as Oregon's new Chief Education Officer. Dr. Crew will be working on the transformation of Oregon's public education system, from early childhood services through K-12 and post-secondary education and training. Dr. Crew has had various positions in education over the last 30 years including Chancellor of New York City Public Schools and Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The position is a three year contract beginning July 1.
(June 2012)

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New higher education Political Action Committee gains support

A new higher education political action committee, The Oregonians for Higher Education Excellence PAC, has already collected over $250,000 since its start in March. The committee's focus will be on creating more independence for Oregon's seven public universities. Big contributors include Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and Nike co-founder Phil Knight. According to Boyle, the new committee is "prepared to develop a ballot measure that would promote a speedy devolution of authority" if the Legislature fails to make some recommended changes in higher education.
(June 2012)

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Alliance and partner business associations urge governor and Legislature to continue education reform

The Alliance joined with the Oregon Business Council, the Oregon Business Association and Associated Oregon Industries to urge the Legislature to take the next steps necessary to enable full implementation of post-secondary education reform began during the 2011 legislative session. Read the letter.
(February 2012)

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