Monday, May 3, 2010

2010 Primary: OR Superintendent

May 18, 2010, Oregon Primary Election
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Four-year term, $72k salary

[_] Susan Castillo
  • Top 3 things I want to do if I win.
    • Vague/Obvious: "...continue to work to improve student performance through clear, high expectations."
    • Good: "increase access to Head Start, Early Head Start and full day kindergarten."
    • Unlikely: "advocate for adequate, stable funding so our schools don’t suffer when the economy is bad."
  • Interesting: "...The good news is that we know which students are at risk of dropping out and Oregon’s high school dropout rate is at an all-time low..."
  • Yikes: "In 2007...Castillo almost cost Oregonians millions after lawmakers discovered she’d mistakenly told local school districts they could charge tuition for full-day kindergarten. That was illegal actually...To fix her mistake, the Legislature passed emergency legislation, retroactively rendering her actions legal."
  • Yikes: "...a Marion County Circuit Court ordered Castillo’s education department to pay $3.5 million to an online testing company the department had accused of breach of contract. ODE is appealing that decision. But if that effort fails, Castillo will have to lean on the Legislature for another major fix..."
  • Unfortunate: "In 2008, one of Castillo’s employees embezzled almost $1 million in taxpayer funds from the department. Although Castillo says the department has recovered most of the money and put in place new accounting protections, we see a pattern here."
  • Ouch: "...Castillo failed to put Oregon in the running for millions from the federal education grant known as Race to the Top. (Oregon’s application was 35th out of 41 states.) Oh, we forgot—she did help the teachers union in its efforts to curb the growth of online charter schools."
  • Ugh: "...Castillo hesitates to tread outside boundaries set by the Oregon Education Association, one of her key backers. She lacks a strong agenda..."
  • Ouch. Isn't this her job?: "...Castillo too often has been on the sidelines of big issues. She does not command wide respect at the Oregon Capitol....She had to be ask for a state audit of the financially troubled Willamette Education Service District."
  • Yikes: "...we continue to be confounded that Castillo appointed a non-educator to the department's No. 2 position...despite her own lack of a background in education."
[X] Ron Maurer
  • Top 3 things I want to do if I win.
    • Obvious: "Have more students graduate high school."
    • Good: "Prepare students for career jobs"
    • Good: "Prepare students to go to college."
  • Interesting: "...We need to reconnect our schools with vocational and technical career paths that provide a living wage. When the baby boomers retire, Oregon will face a significant skilled workforce shortage..."
  • Interesting: "...The Department should strive to reduce the administrative burden placed on schools in order to improve quality. We must reduce paperwork for teachers so they can focus more time on their students..."
  • YIKES: "...Maurer’s view that teachers with concealed handgun permits should be allowed to pack heat in homeroom. Maurer also says the content of sex education should be community-driven, rather than a state matter. ...he’s torn between faith and science. 'I am not a supporter of creationism,' he says. 'I am not a supporter of evolution.'..."
  • Good: "...Maurer freely admits that he is not the most qualified person in Oregon to serve as schools chief. He says he's running out of frustration that no one else would challenge the status quo. He deserves credit for doing so. In fact, if his vision and agenda were clearer, this newspaper would have endorsed him..."
  • Great: "...Maurer has an education background, including a doctorate in the field...As a state representative from Grants Pass, and former school board member, he may be closer to grassroots educational concerns that Castillo....He understands the problems created when local districts get inconsistent answers or are delayed in receiving information from the Education Department."

Well in this case, there is reason to vote out the incumbent. In what has to be a thankless and impossible job, Castillo has made several headline-grabbing blunders. It would be irresponsible for voters to reward her with a third term and hope for better results.

I don't believe in casting protest votes for unqualified candidates. Although, for some reason there are concerns about Maurer's qualifications (education doctorate, former school board chair, state rep.), he seems to be as or more qualified than Castillo (a former TV reporter and state senator). I'm hesitant about electing a Republican with, apparently, the usual biases against sex education and science, but the office is technically nonpartisan. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to be rallying the right wing base.

In nearly every national, state, and local political campaign, education is touted as a top priority, and yet Oregonians have left the top education job to a little-known elected position that offers no incentive to attract an effective executive (really, $72k salary???). It should be an appointed position.

No comments: