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LCSD plans $3 million in cuts; new taxes not on list

January 25, 2000

Published as "Viewpoint," News-Times, 1/26/00

Coincidentally or not, in the same 1/26 edition of the N-T Supt. Stoops announces the Task Force will consider a tax levy request

P.O. Box 965
Newport, Oregon 97365

In a message to the LCSD staff, dated 1/12/00, Superintendent Jack Stoops attempted to address rumors and clarify the objectives of the Task Force which he has created to get "early public reaction" to the anticipated crisis of budget cuts of "more than $3 million" for school year 2000-2001. The two-page outline includes numerous suggestions for cutting deeply into the muscle and bone of the county education system. The suggestions include: closing shools, consolidating schools, reducing to a 4-day week, enlarging class sizes, eliminating extra-curricular activities, eliminating low-participation classes, requiring teachers and classified staff to take cuts in pay and benefits, and using unlicensed people to teach classes.

It was shocking to read this outline of drastically damaging cuts to our schools and not read one single word about using the alternative of the newly-passed Oregon State law allowing a "local option" property tax levy to help make up for the cuts. Many schools around the state have announced their intention to pursue local funds to supplement their revenues from the state general fund. 60 miles to the east, Corvallis School District has gained voter approval of a levy for the purpose of RAISING teacher salaries -- in recognition of their current prosperity and the growing shortage of certified teachers.

Lincoln County has not enjoyed much of the prosperity as the timber and fishing industries have curtailed operations. Working class families have moved away, resulting in a decline in school enrollment -- the immediate cause of next year's reductions in district revenues. However, over the past decade, since the passage of Measure 5, LCSD budgets have been cut around 20%. ($3 million more will make the decade of cuts reach over 27%.) Class sizes have increased significantly. Many elective classes are no longer available. We no longer offer quality library services; many extra curricular programs are gone; parents pay for sports and volunteer transportation. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, the damage has been somewhat reduced.

Unfortunately, some of the county's best hopes for replacement industries will be hurt by budget cuts which will lower the quality of our schools even more. High-speed fiber-optic communications lines and improved highways are in progress, linking our rural area more directly to the thriving high-tech industry in the Willamette Valley. Potential businesses which might choose to take advantage of these improvements and locate in Lincoln County will surely think twice if they realize their employees' children will attend sub-standard schools. As an example, currently some of our area's best jobs are with the Hatfield Marine Science Center. I have heard several people who work there express dismay at the prospect of further reductions in the quality of local schools. Teachers and many others who have children in school are saying the same things.

If we are not to be wholly dependent on tourism, gambling, and retirement, with their low-wage jobs, we cannot afford to further handicap ourselves by damaging the public schools. Good public schools are part of the essential infra-structure which new businesses look for. As a taxpayer who has twice returned my kicker-tax-refund check to the schools, I encourage the LCSD Board, Superintendent, and concerned citizens to speak out now to head off plans to further cripple our schools.