Senator Jeff Kruse - March 13th, 2015 - CHANGE OF DIRECTION


Senator Jeff Kruse
R-Roseburg, District 1

Phone: 503-986-1701    900 Court St. NE, S-315 Salem Oregon 97301
Email:     Website:

 Working Hard For You


MARCH 13, 2015




Yesterday the Governor signed the Low Carbon Fuels Standards bill, which ended the opportunity for us to get a bi-partisan transportation package this Session.  As I have discussed in previous letters, this was a very unfortunate outcome.  The reality remains that if we were to attempt an additional gas tax on top of the one the Governor just signed; it would be referred to the voters and defeated.  It is unfortunate that the majority party has chosen to put a “political agenda” ahead of the real needs of the state but that is exactly what happened.


For me this means I will no longer be going to the evening transportation workgroup, which has freed up some time to work in another workgroup dealing with the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB).  A few years ago the legislature, in its infinite wisdom, made the Governor the Superintendent of Public Instruction and also created this Board.  In essence what we did was turn all command and control over the education system to the Executive Branch.  Since then what we have seen is a massive expansion in the size of the bureaucracy and the quality of education in Oregon slip to near the bottom.


This is very similar to the way we also turned control over the health care system to the Executive Branch when we created the Oregon Health Authority.  I believe it was Kitzhaber’s plan to combine education, health care and social services into an entity which he would control.  He was well on his way to achieving his objective, but we may now have the opportunity to move in another direction.


To that end I would like to present you with a concept for your consideration, and I will gladly welcome any input you might have.  We will start with the belief that the education system needs to be connected from kindergarten to baccalaureate.  As we move to a system where it is possible to get college credits while still in high school and also the need to be able to go from a community college to a four years school without the loss of credits, I think this need becomes quite apparent.  To this end I would like to propose what I think might be a very good governance model.


I am talking about a true K-20 board of education, and this would be the structure.  It would be a 12 person board and it would consist of three members representing the universities, three members representing community colleges and six members representing K-12, with one from each Congressional District and one at large.  The purpose of the at large position is due to the fact that we believe Oregon will pick up an additional Congressional District at the next census.  All members would be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, but in a slightly different way.  For example, the Governor would have to appoint the community college members from a pool the community colleges would put forth in nomination.  The same would go for universities and K-12.  In this model we can assume each component will put forward their best people to represent their interests.  So in the end we would have a highly qualified board of directors overseeing what is truly the biggest business in the state.


The other change would be in how we select the superintendent.  Currently, in the Oregon Constitution, it states the superintendent will either be elected or the Governor will be the superintendent.  We have now tried both ways and neither one has worked very well, largely because there has never been a direct line of accountability.  We would propose amending the Constitution to allow for the superintendent to be hired by the newly created board.


I think we can assume the board would hire the best qualified person they could find for the job.  So what we would end up with would be a very highly qualified board of directors with a highly qualified superintendent who would be directly accountable to the Board.  It would then be the job of this group to create the administrative structure necessary for the efficient operation of the education system.  To a very large degree we would be taking the politics out of the system and refocusing the efforts towards ensuring that our children could get a quality education.


When the Legislature created OEIB we were told that “we are not sure exactly what we will do, but we are sure it will be good things.”  So all I think they have accomplished is to create more government jobs and spend millions of dollars that should have been going into the classroom.  This other plan is the direction I am hoping this workgroup will be going.  Before we lose a whole generation of kids we need to make a change.  I think this is the change that will benefit both our children and our state.


I would welcome any comments you might have.  Incidentally, I would like to point out that most of the people in the education system like this plan.  We have been building it in a very collaborative manner for about three years.  Because it is a Constitutional measure it would have to go on the general election ballot in 2016, but I do think it is time to ask the people what they think.




Senator Jeff Kruse







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