Don't let budget crisis undercut school vision


Special to the News

The Hood River County School District is providing an education for 3,758 students this school year. The vision we have for these children is being threatened by a state system of funding that is not stable or adequate. With the primary source of state funding coming from income taxes, schools are subject to the mood of the economy. That mood has not been good this past year.

With student enrollment at an all-time high, we are being forced to reduce programs and services provided to students. In April, our district cut $1.3 million from the budget. That resulted in the loss of nine staff positions and $900,000 in support services, i.e. technology, textbooks, extra-curricular activities, etc. These reductions not only mean the loss of educational opportunities, but also the loss of family wage jobs in a community already experiencing high unemployment.

The release of the May revenue forecast brought news that the Oregon economy is still not doing well. Now the state is faced with an $880 million shortfall, and Hood River County schools are facing further cuts to programs and services.

The amount of reductions this time is $950,000. Cuts under consideration include: $211,000 to elementary programs, $319,000 to secondary programs, and $420,000 to district-level services. These reductions make it impossible for us to fulfill our vision of providing quality education to the 3,758 students in our schools.

Schools across Oregon are facing similar reductions in programs and services, and we are all looking to the legislature to do more than balance the budget by cutting. A third special session of the legislature will be called sometime in June to decide how to deal with the $880 million shortfall. The cuts having to be considered by schools to balance budgets will leave a generation of Oregon’s children ill-prepared to meet life’s demands. This is not a legacy the governor and state legislators want to leave Oregon.

We cannot realize our vision for the students of Hood River County unless we receive additional funding to avoid this next round of cuts. Oregonians have worked hard to build a common school system that gives children as good an education as our parents gave us. That system is being threatened today as never before. We find ourselves as stewards of a public school system in need of help. I trust that we will answer that call for the sake of our children.

“Our economic and cultural survival depends on our ability to educate our children as well as (if not better than) other nations are educating their children” (Huffman, 2000).


Jerry Sessions is superintendent of Hood River County School District.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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