The Oregon Employment Department fiasco: Gov. Brown needs to look in the mirror.

brokenmirror

In blasting the bungling at the Oregon Employment Department, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown needs to look in the mirror.

The fact is the Oregon Employment Department has been a dysfunctional mess for years under three Democratic administrations.

On May 31, 2020, Brown fired Kay Erickson, Director of the Employment Department, after an uproar over delayed payment of unemployment benefits to thousands of struggling Oregonians.

“In the middle of this pandemic, the continued delays from the Oregon Employment Department in delivering unemployment insurance benefits to thousands of out-of-work Oregonians are unacceptable,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown neglected to point out that it was she who named Erikson Director in Aug. 2016, effusively praising her at the time as “an innovative and collaborative leader.”

She also failed to point out that in January 2016 she had also fired the previous director, Lisa Nisenfeld, who had been appointed in September 2013 by another Democratic governor, John Kitzhaber.

Nisenfeld had also taken over a dysfunctional agency that had lost the trust of the Legislature and wasted money on problematic software projects.

In November 2013, The Oregonian reported the Employment Department poured nearly $7 million into development of a failed software project before scrapping the project altogether.

A July 2013 state assessment of the Employment Department had uncovered distrust, dysfunction and “warring factions” led by the agency’s top deputies, as well as multiple failures in the department’s IT department.

“The Information Technology department of the Oregon Employment Department (OED) is in need of leadership, governance, priority setting, methodology, contract administration, and appropriate HR practices,” the assessment said.

The 2013 assessment also lambasted IT governance. “When the (2008-2009) recession hit, multiple projects were added to the IT workload, senior managers left with poor hand off and no continuity with regard to IT sponsorship work,” it said. “These projects were not prioritized and IT was left relatively unsupported.”

Then there’s the fact Oregon received $85.6 million in one-time modernization funds from the U.S. Department of Labor way back in 2009, when Democrat Ted Kulongoski was governor.

The upgrade was supposed to solve problems associated with the use of computers that were running systems dating back to the Reagan administration and earlier. Although subsequent audits have warned that the Employment Department remained woefully unprepared for a spike in jobless claims, most of that federal money remains unspent.

Brown has been governor since February 2015. It’s time to stop blaming everybody but herself and fellow Democratic governors for the fiasco at the Employment Department.

Addendum:

Oregon leaders squandered years on jobless benefits computer upgrade. Now the project’s future is again in doubt, by Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian/OregonLive, May 19, 2021.

Guest Opinion: Gov. Brown’s Covid-19 Emergency Declaration is Unconstitutional

NOTE: On May 18, 2020 a Baker County, OR judge invalidated the governor’s restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, along with every other executive order Brown has issued under a state of emergency she ordered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. https://bit.ly/3dYTwM6

By Glen Wagner   GWagnersmall

 

One thing I have not seen addressed enough in regards to Oregon Governor Brown’s actions related to the COVID-19 situation is the literal unconstitutionality and illegal nature of her Emergency Declaration or her blatant continued violation of the constraints placed on her from the Oregon Constitution.

Willamette University professor Paul Diller has bloggedabout the matter, arguing that Brown’s emergency orders should have an expiration date, and Willamette Week has written about his argument, but that’s it.

In my view,  a basic reading of Section 6.1 of Article X-A of the Oregon Constitution (found at https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/Pages/OrConst.aspx) clearly states that emergency powers shall not extend beyond 30 days from the time of proclamation, after which the articles will expire.

Section 6.2 of Article X-A says that a 3/5 approval of the Legislative Assembly is required to extend the date beyond 30 days. Section 6.5 of Article X-A says that the Governor cannot issue a second proclamation for the same emergency.

Gov. Brown declared the COVID-19 emergency on March 8th. Per the Oregon Constitution, the emergency legally ended on April 8th. As far as I know, the Legislative Assembly did not vote to approve a time extension. Therefore, any of the Governor’s current actions justified by this emergency declaration are fundamentally unconstitutional.

Gov. Brown’s Emergency Declaration states it is to last 60-days. The declaration itself is in violation of Section 6.1 of Article X-A in the state constitution.

The governor’s Emergency Declaration further claims the 60-day term “can be extended or terminated by the Governor”. Per ORS 401.204 the Governor (or the Legislature) can terminate the emergency, but it does NOT give the Governor the authority to extend it. Article X-A Section 6.2 makes it clear ONLY the Legislative Assembly can do this.

According to ORS 401.165.1 the declaration needs to specify an area “no larger than necessary to respond to the emergency.” 433.441.2(b) Says it should state the political subdivision or geographical area subject to the proclamation. Governor Brown’s Emergency Declaration states the emergency to be “state-wide”.

While public health information is listed within the declaration, it is not a foregone conclusion that all counties in the state had equal risk of infection and not all asked for an emergency to be declared. The purpose of the limited geographical nature of an emergency is to ensure focus of state resources and limit emergency powers to a specific area. In can be argued that by making it immediately state-wide the states and county resources were de-focused and spread thin rather than concentrated at the points of highest risk such as in urban areas. While not in violation of the law, it is surprising no one in the legislature raised any challenge to this scope determination.

ORS 433.441.2(d) Says the proclamation must contain a duration IF LESS THAN 14 days; in other words, there is a statutory limit on the Public Health Proclamation of 14 days. Governor Brown’s Emergency Declaration clearly violates this requirement by stating a 60 days duration.

ORS 433.441.5 Says the proclamation expires when the Governor declares it or NO MORE THAN 14 days after the proclamation. The Governor can extend the duration by another 14-day period (1) for a total of 28 days. This is in compliance with the Constitution’s Article X-A since it is within 30 days. It does NOT give the right to the Governor to extend the duration indefinitely. Therefore, Governor Brown’s Emergency Declaration of 60-days and that the Governor can extend the time frame is in violation of this statute.

ORS 433.452 Says that it is reasonable for the state to detain an individual who has been exposed to the reportable condition only for the time necessary to collect contact tracing information. The individual is to be educated on the nature of their exposure. Nowhere can I find in this statute where the Governor is given the authority to detain ANY or ALL individuals who have not been shown to have been exposed to the reportable condition. Her order indicated only 14 people in a state with a population of over 4 million had contracted COVID-19 and only in a small geographical location. There was no justification for and no legal right for the Governor to issue a stay at home order for healthy individuals. Likewise, even if this order had been legal it should have expired on April 8th like everything else.

Therefore, the Governor has exceeded her authority to detain unaffected individuals and for durations far exceeding anything allowed in the state constitution or statutes.

The Governor just issued an extension to her originally unconstitutional declaration, which is an actual illegal act to the aforementioned references. In addition, she cites two statutory references: ORS 401.165 and ORS 401.204 as justifications of her right to extend the emergency for another 60 days.

401.165 only states the Governor’s ability to issue a declaration, which she already did on March 8th. 401.204 pertains to ENDING the emergency, not extending it. And then to sound all legal she says it is all under ORS 401.025. All this section does is define some terms for the rest of the statute. Basically, they included these references to give an air of legitimacy when in fact they have no bearing on the extension proclamation at all. This shows culpability and intent to continue to violate our laws.

Where is the push-back?

Kate Brown needs to bite the bullet on a Covid-19 budget

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Gov. Kate Brown wants all state agencies to submit plans for 8.5 percent cuts in their general fund dollars for the two-year budget cycle because of the expected impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What a complete waste of time.

A smarter, bolder governor would abjure equal across-the-board cuts in favor of cuts targeted at lower priority, low-quality or ineffective programs.

The order for across-the-board budget cut scenarios is a lazy cop-out that substitutes simple, seemingly fair cuts for hard decisions that might raise political hackles.

If all programs are kept in place and just reduced in size and scope, opportunities to eliminate waste are lost and saved but ineffective programs tend to grow again when higher state revenues return.

As George W. Bush said, “There comes a time when every program must be judged either a success or a failure. Where we find success, we should reward it, repeat it, make it the standard. And where we find failure, we must call it by its name. Government action that fails in its purpose must be reformed or ended.”

Indiscriminate equal across-the-board cuts also ignore differential effectiveness between state government programs and differences in policy priorities. They are agnostic as to what the state should really be doing with its revenue and lock in current policy priorities.  They also penalize the leanest and most efficient agencies that have less fat to cut.

Some programs may also be able to sustain their core functions with a specific percentage cut, while others can’t.  You can’t, for example, cut the length of a bridge by 8.5 percent.

Uniform 8.5 percent cuts will mean that valuable, impactful projects and investments will be cut as much as in equal measure with bloated, duplicative projects and state employees doing great work will be cut along with those doing shoddy work.

In addition, although government frequently tries to cloak all spending in the “investment” bucket, it is true that some spending is intended to be more an investment in the future than a short-term outlay.  An across-the-board spending cut that applies to even productive public investments may reduce current spending, but make future budget problems worse.

“At this point, the reduction plans are a planning exercise that will give the Governor a series of options to consider,” Liz Merah, a spokeswoman for Gov. Brown, said to OPB.

Exercise is right, as in performance without a purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One step by Gov. Brown; one giant leap in thwarting democracy in Oregon

Dirty-politics........

 

Where’s the outrage?

Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill today that effectively cancels petitions signed by thousands of Oregonians calling for a public vote on the Democrats’ $2 billion business tax (HB 3427).

In Oregon, that’s called democracy in action. In the rest of the country, that would be called dirty politics.

In June, the Governor signed a $2 billion $2.6 billion business tax bill (HB 3427).  Distressed Oregonians responded by starting a referendum petition (Petition #301) that would have put the tax on the ballot. The Democrat supermajority in the State Legislature cut off the nascent effort at the knees by passing a bill (HB 2164) that retroactively changed the language and wording of the original tax, canceling out the petition to that point because it referenced the original text.

“HB 2164 is designed to look like a cosmetic language change to a 40-page tax bill, but it contains poison words designed to murder the voter campaign to pass petition #301 (the repeal petition),” the Taxpayer Association of Oregon said on July 17. “….it is borderline criminal to rob the people of their right to vote on matters they care about. Politicians should not be able to subvert and void the people from using their initiative process to petition their government.”

“This subversive tactic of changing the laws in the middle of the process while people are trying to change the laws has never been done before in modern Oregon political history,” the Taxpayer Association said today.  “This subversive and vote-canceling attack can now be used to stop ANY petition effort that the public might wish to bring to the ballot.” (bold in original)

Having achieved a supermajority in the 2019 Legislative session, the Democrats have ignored their ethical responsibility to Oregonians and abused their power

“What kind of fool do you take me for?”, asked one of the Three Stooges in Saved By The Belle. Oregon voters should be asking the same thing of Democratic legislators and Gov. Brown.

 

 

 

Hijacking Oregon Justice

 

Kate Brown

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

Former Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick was hired by  Gov. Kate Brown’s Oregon Department of Justice in June 2018 as a Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG).

Sounds simple and straightforward. It’s not.

It’s just plan wrong and Brown and her Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute is pointing out that Novick’s entire salary is being paid by an out-of-state private source, New York University’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, which is backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Center is covering Novick’s legal fellowship with the aim of strengthening state attorney general offices in their crusade against the Trump administration’s environmental policies.

The unprecedented practice of providing external funding to state attorneys general to push a policy agenda ought to raise ethical concerns, the Cascade Policy Institute asserts, and justifiably so. As attorney Andrew Grossman put it: “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire….Really, what’s being done is circumventing our normal mode of government.”

In August 2018, Competitive Enterprise Institute published a report by Christopher Horner which details the roots and function of the SAAG program. Law Enforcement for Rent: How Special Interests Fund Climate Policy through State Attorneys General describes the genesis of the SAAG program as an informal coalition between states, spearheaded by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

According to Justus Armstrong, a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, a letter included in the report’s appendix from Schneiderman and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum shows she was invited to a March 2016 meeting of this coalition. The letter describes the program as “an important part of the national effort to ensure the adoption of stronger federal climate and energy policies.” Correspondence between members of the coalition (also compiled by Horner) expresses a desire to collaborate on targeting companies in the energy industry with regulatory and enforcement tools.

This same environmental policy agenda drives NYU’s Center, as expressed in its communication with state attorneys general. Emails state that the “opportunity to potentially hire an NYU Fellow is open to all state attorneys general who demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.” NYU’s website directs interested attorneys general to demonstrate a need for outside funding to pursue these legal positions.

If this sounds questionable, imagine a similar practice being used to serve other political agendas. If a nonprofit backed by Charles and David Koch offered to fund a position in a state to provide legal assistance on regulatory matters, would it be considered a conflict of interest? If the National Rifle Association were bankrolling state employees to serve as a “resource” on gun law enforcement, would it raise red flags? This isn’t simply about protecting the environment versus not. It’s a question of impropriety and corruption. NYU states in its agreements that fellows owe their loyalty solely to the state attorney general once they’re assigned there, but SAAGs like Novick are still being paid by an outside source while working on behalf of the state.

According to the Associated Press, Oregon deputy legislative counsel Marisa James said in a Sept. 11, 2018 legal analysis that the fellowship program violates state law because special assistant attorney general Steve Novick is paid by an entity other than the state and reports to the center and the attorney general.

“We conclude that some aspects of Mr. Novick’s appointment conflict with the Attorney General’s authority to appoint assistants under ORS 180.140,” Ms. Jacobs said in a letter obtained by The Washington Free Beacon.

Oregon Deputy Attorney General Frederick Boss disagreed, arguing in a Sept. 24, 2018 letter that the arrangement is “consistent with many longstanding SAAG appointments in areas like tobacco enforcement, bond issuance, and complex health care transactions.”

It appears that Rosenblum was anxious about the ethical gray areas of this arrangement from the start. Emails from within the DOJ show that Rosenblum instructed the DOJ not to use the word “volunteer” to describe Novick’s position in his hiring paperwork. The obfuscating language of the hiring process is notable: In reality, Novick isn’t working as a “volunteer” or a “research fellow,” but as an environmental lawyer, as he has been for years. Rosenblum also showed apprehension about the potential media attention the unprecedented arrangement could draw, as one email states:

“We need to be sure we are prepared to explain his position to the media, who, no doubt, will be interested. (Because he is being paid by an outside entity—which is quite unusual I think)….”

As Armstrong notes, Novick’s position is quite unusual indeed, and Oregonians deserve an explanation. Regardless of one’s views on Novick, Rosenblum, or Bloomberg’s environmental policy agenda, embedding privately funded legal counsel in our justice department is a conflict of interest. The Attorney General’s office should be loyal to Oregon citizens, not out-of-state donors, and should uphold the law rather than push a legislative agenda.

 

 

 

Gov. Brown’s new solar power orders are a stealth tax.

Gov. Kate Brown must figure that if Barack Obama could govern by executive order, so can she.

So right before she was to head for Germany to attend the United Nations climate talks she imposed new taxes through Executive Orders 17-20 and 17-21 with absolutely no public debate.

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Yeah, higher housing costs!

Brown doesn’t call her Executive Orders a tax. She calls them a direction to the state Department of Business and Consumer Services’ Building Code Division (BCD) to amend the state’s codes with respect to making new residential and commercial structures “solar ready”. She also mandated that all new parking structures for home and commercial buildings be wired for a charger for an electric vehicle by October 2022.

But all this will cost builders extra money, and they will pass those costs on to homebuyers and building users.

So, at a time when the state is struggling with a lack of affordable housing, Gov. Brown is unilaterally imposing additional costs on Oregonians to burnish her credentials with the environmental lobby. Would those now endorsing Brown’s move be as pleased if she had unilaterally eliminated some environmentally- friendly sections of the state’s building code?

There is always a cost associated with retrofitting a building to accommodate solar. With the proper solar ready preparations, these measures may cost less if done at the time of building construction. But the decision on whether to impose a requirement for solar ready structures should be made in a public process.

Building code amendments are typically accomplished by legislative action or the adoption of proposals from the public. Legislative action takes time and requires public hearings. If a member of the public proposes an amendment, the Division insists that proposals:

  1. Be shared with people and organizations that will be impacted.
  2. Be accompanied by substantiating evidence or information to support the change
  3. Include the cost impact the change would have on building construction.

Brown didn’t bother with any of these steps, including projecting costs. She probably doesn’t know what all this is going to cost….or care..

Oregonians should see Brown’s move for what it is, a new tax on homebuyers and a dangerous level of executive overreach.

 

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Hy·poc·ri·sy in action: Oregon Senate Committee approves appointments by Gov. Brown that will undermine PERS

PERScartoon

Oregon legislators of both parties, with some help from Gov. Kate Brown, took care of their own today (Nov 13) and set up a raid on an already burdened PERS in the process.

The Senate Committee on Rules and Appointments, meeting in a packed Hearing Room B at the State Capitol, approved Gov. Brown’s appointment of two state senators, Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), to high-paying positions on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

committeeHeAringSen. Devlin (L) and Sen. Ferrioli (R) appear before the Senate Committee on Rules and Appointments

The Council is a federally funded panel that provides policy and planning leadership on regional power, fish and wildlife issues. Though the Council is a regional body with representatives from four states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana), Oregon members are considered state employees and take advantage of state benefits, including PERS.

As members of the Legislature, Devlin and Ferrioli are each paid an annual salary of $24,216. At the committee meeting, Ferrioli acknowledged that his new job will be a “lucrative position”. As members of the Council, they will each make $120,000 a year.

Neither man noted that the appointments will also mean big retirement rewards.   Conveniently for Devlin and Ferrioli, they have each been appointed to three-year terms. Lifetime retirement benefits under PERS are designed to provide approximately 45 percent of a state employee’s final average salary at retirement. Final average salary is generally the average of the highest three consecutive years or 1/3 of total salary in the last 36 months of employment.

That means Devlin and Ferrioli will likely end up exploiting PERS for big payouts, potentially rewarding them with hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in benefits. This when PERS is already overwhelmed with billions of dollars in unfunded actuarial liabilities (UAL) and a task force appointed by Brown has just released a report outlining drastic measures that could be taken to partially address the problem.

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Attorney General John Mitchell

“Watch what we do, not what we say,” President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, told the press at the start of Nixon’s presidency in 1969.  Oregonians should do the same with the constant blathering of Gov. Brown and legislators about PERS’ deplorable financial condition and their determination to address the problem. Words, just words.

Virginia’s Nov. 7 election: rural vs. urban is the story

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Democrats sweep in Virginia…as voters reject ‘Trumpism’, “ said OregonLive.

I’m not sure it’s that simple.

If you look at maps that break down election results by county in Virginia you will quickly see that it wasn’t so much Trumpism vs. Liberals as urban vs. rural. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate won by sweeping heavily liberal urban areas, but lost by big margins in rural areas.

It reminds me of statewide Oregon elections.

In 2016, when Kate Brown won the race for governor, her win was derived almost entirely from higher population urban areas, including counties with academic centers, such as the University of Oregon (Lane County) and Oregon State University (Benton County)

brownmap2

BLUE: Kate Brown; RED: Bud Pierce

John Kitzhaber’s 2014 race against Dennis Richardson followed the same pattern:

govenorsracepng

BLUE: Kitzhaber; RED: Richardsonn

Now look at the results of the Nov. 2017 governor’s race in Virginia, where voters chose Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie 54 percent to 45 percent.

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RED: Gillespie    BLUE: Northam

The New York Times reported  that Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam won the race against Republican Ed Gillespie with huge margins in vote-rich metropolitan Virginia, and especially the populous Washington suburbs in Northern Virginia.

For example, in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest county (and where I used to live when working in Wash., D.C.) twice as many voters supported Northam than Gillespie. Northam also carried Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County by more than 23,000 votes — a 20-point spread.

Maps on the New York Times website  also show Northam’s big vote advantages in other urban areas, including Richmond (The State Capitol), Norfolk (Home to the largest U.S. Navy base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters, Roanoke ( Roanoke College , Hollins University and Virginia Tech  are in the area), and Harrisonburg (home to James Madison University, with an enrollment of 21,000 students).

Northam also did well in southeastern Virginia, where the state’s large black population is heavily concentrate. Northam also comes from Virginia’s eastern shore,

Meanwhile, Gillespie rolled up huge margins in rural areas, sometimes 70-80 percent of the vote. In southwest Virginia’s Scott County, for example, Gillespie took 81.4 percent, Northam 17.7 percent. The problem is all the rural areas couldn’t override Northam’s vote in populous urban areas.  Gillespie’s win got him just 4996 votes in Scott County., while Gillespie’s 67.9 percent win in Fairfax County got him 254,919 votes.

“Rural Virginia, mostly stuck with the GOP brand and backed Gillespie at almost the same levels as Trump,” Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the New York Times. “However, the problem for the rural areas is that Gillespie didn’t make any inroads in the Urban Crescent, meaning that the more urban and suburban parts of the state trumped the heavily Republican vote in areas such as Southwest Virginia, Southside, and the Shenandoah Valley.

This election suggests that the state’s politics may remain very polarized, with urban areas being very Democratic, suburban and exurban areas leaning Democratic, and rural areas voting heavily Republican.”

In other words, despite the Democrat’s success this week, it’s no sure thing that 2018 will see a Democratic sweep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Double dealing with PERS: enough of Gov. Brown’s shenanigans

kate-brown-10x8-d383f11824f1b171

What, me two-faced?

What one hand giveth, another taketh away.

Gov. Kate Brown knows how it works.

Just as a task force she appointed puts out a report on how PERS’ massive unfunded actuarial liability (UAL) might be reduced, Brown appoints two legislators to jobs that will drain PERS of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Task Force, which Brown charged with identifying options to generate additional funding to reduce the PERS UAL by up to $5 billion over the next five years, issued its report yesterday (Nov. 1). Ideas put forward in the report to generate revenue for PERS , which would impact all Oregonians, include:

  • Privatize state universities
  • Sell surplus port and airport property
  • Sell additional Common School Fund land assets
  • Expand the types of gaming the Oregon Lottery offers and direct revenue from these new options toward PERS
  • Impose a charge for new water rights based on market prices.
  • Sell or do an IPO of SAIF
  • Institute more aggressive foreclosures on properties with property tax and other liens (“Cities could use their own discretion to use the streamlined process (in order to make sure they don’t evict 85-year old grandmothers,” the report notes.)
  • Increase OLCC’s flexibility to operate the spirits business to maximize profits; Increase alcohol licensing fees and excise taxes on beer and wine; impose a surcharge on all distilled spirit (liquor) sales in Oregon, calculated as a percentage of the retail sales price (e.g., 1%, 5%, or 10%).

While all this revenue-raising analysis is going on, Gov. Brown is proposing to undermine PERS’ financial health by conspiring with Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) to enrich the legislators, fleece PERS and drive up the costs of PERS payers, such as schools and local governments.

As I’ve pointed out previously, on Oct. 23, Brown nominated Devlin and Ferrioli to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council, a federally funded panel that provides policy and planning leadership on regional power, fish and wildlife issues. The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the nominations on Nov. 13.

The council positions come with a $120,000 annual salary, substantially more than Devlin and Ferrioli have been making from their legislative salaries.

Furthermore, as The Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger reported this past week, both men will likely end up raiding PERS for big payouts.

The jobs “…will allow both legislators to double dip, turbocharge their public pensions, or both,” Sickinger reported.

As Sickinger explained it:

“Ferrioli already draws a $33,083 annual pension from the Public Employees Retirement System. That benefit stems from 6½ years working for the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs in the late ’70s and early ’80s…And because he is already at retirement age, he is allowed to double dip, continuing to collect it while working full time at the council.

Meanwhile, Ferrioli is eligible for a separate pension for his 20 years of legislative service. And if his Senate colleagues confirm him to the new position, that pension will be calculated using his new higher salary and the extra years of service he earns at the power council, according to PERS.

It’s unclear how much service credit Ferrioli earned during his years at the Legislature, given the part-time work. But assuming he sticks with the job for the first three-year term, the new salary could quintuple his legislative pension, which could translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra benefits over the course of his retirement (emphasis mine). And he could start drawing that while continuing to work at the council.

Devlin, too, could see a similar multiplier in his legislative pension if confirmed. He, too, has 20 years of legislative service and is eligible to start drawing his pension. But if he holds off, the new salary and service at the power council would balloon those benefits after three years.”

This brazen attempt to exploit PERS when it is already suffering from billions in unfunded liabilities needs to be cut off at the pass.

If they want to maintain their reputations as public servants, Devlin and Ferrioli should either decline the Council appointments or they should refuse any additional PERS benefits that may arise because of them.

And Gov. Brown and the Legislature need to put a stop to this practice of raiding PERS to enrich former Legislators. It’s time to stop taking Oregonians for rubes.

 

 

 

 

Dereliction of duty: How bad does it have to get before you shut down a failing virtual charter school?

 

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Millions of taxpayer dollars! Appalling test scores! Horrific graduation rates!

Why are Insight School of Oregon – Painted Hills and Oregon Virtual Academy, both virtual charter schools run by K12 Inc., a for-profit, online education company, still operating?

Why are we letting this happen to our children?

Insight opened its doors in Oregon in 2012 as Insight School of Oregon Charter Option, sponsored by the Crook County School District in Central Oregon.

To operate the school, its board contracted with K12, Virtual Schools LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of publicly traded for-profit K12 Inc. (LRN [U.S.:NYSE] ). K12 Inc. runs 58 separate virtual charter schools across the country. The company reported revenues of $888.5 million for the Year Ended June 30, 2017.

Insight’s Oregon headquarters was located in a nondescript one-story office building at 603 NW. 3rd St. in Prineville.

In its first three years, Insight’s K-12 enrollment grew to more than 500 students from around the state.

But all was not well.

K12 Inc. says its education program “is proven effective,” but the numbers told a different story to the Crook County School District. Even though the district netted $231,592 in the first year of its contract with Insight and $436,554 in the second, it began to have serious reservations about continuing the relationship.

In Nov. 2014, the Crook County School District sent a blistering letter to Insight expressing grave concerns about the school’s operations and academic performance.

School Superintendent Dr. Duane Yecha and school board Chair Doug Smith told the school they had major concerns about Insight’s: inadequate tracking of student attendance and enrollment; academic achievement; poor test participation; low four-year graduation rate (16.18 percent in 2013-2014); and failure to meet financial requirements stipulated in the district’s contract with Insight.

“…these issues have given the district reason to consider whether Insight is able to meet its ongoing obligations under the Charter Agreement and under ORS Chapter 338,” the letter said.

In 2015, even though the district was set to net $480,710 from its sponsorship of Insight in the 2014 – 2015 school year, it decided not to renew the sponsorship.

So Insight went shopping.

It quickly found a new partner, signing a sponsorship contract with the Mitchell School District 55 on April 29, 2015. The district had just one school serving a few local kids, some teens from around Oregon and high school students from Germany, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The 20 international and regional students all lived in a school dormitory at the school.

With a new sponsor in hand, Insight changed to a grade 7-12 school and renamed itself Insight School of Oregon – Painted Hills.

insightlogo

According to an audit by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, Insight’s contract with Mitchell School District 55 removed school performance goals included in the the Crook County School District’s charter contract. Also removed was a requirement that Insight submit a written plan of correction if it did not meet the performance goals.

Academic performance didn’t change for the better, based on Report Cards by the Oregon Department of Education.

 

In the 2014-2015 school year, the last with the Crook County School District, only 16.4 percent of the students tested in Mathematics and 48.1 percent of those tested in English Language Arts met the state standard for college/career readiness. Just 37.8 percent met or exceeded state standards in Science.

On top of all this, the graduation rate was a horrific 19.1 percent.

In the 2015-16 school year, the first under the Mitchell School District, scores in Mathematics and English Language Arts got worse and science scores were only marginally better

Only 8.0 percent of the students tested in mathematics and 36.7 percent of those tested in English Language Arts met the state standard for college/career readiness. Just 45.5 percent met or exceeded state standards in Science.

Poor academic performance may have been due, in part, to the high absentee rate, the percentage of the school’s students who missed more than 10 percent of school days during the 2015-2016 school year. Insight’s rate was an extraordinary 66 percent, compared with 18.7 percent statewide

The lowest rate of absenteeism, 45 percent, occurred with 7th grade students, the highest , 86 percent, with 12th graders.

In 2016-17, with the school reporting enrollment of 390 students, performance in English Language Arts improved to 47.1 percent meeting the state standard for college/career readiness, though this was still far below the 60.9 percent performance of all schools statewide. Mathematics performance increased, but from an abysmal 8.0 percent to an abysmal 14.9 percent. Science dropped precipitously from 45.5 percent to 25.0 percent, compared with 60.5 percent statewide.

Other 2016-17 numbers were pretty weak, too. Only 34.5 percent of freshmen were on track to graduate in four years, up from  13.2 percent in 2015-16, but still pitiful compared with 83.4 percent of students at all schools statewide.

Meanwhile the percent of the school’s students that dropped out during the school year and didn’t re-enroll leaped to an almost unbelieveable 75.6 percent in 2016-17, compared with 49.8 percent in 2015-16.

To top it off, the graduation rate, students earning a standard diploma within four years of entering high school, sank from an already horrific 19.1 percent in 2014-15 to 11.8 percent in 2015-16. The graduation rate for 2016-17 is not yet available.

Even the share of students earning a regular, modified, extended, or adult high school diploma or completing a GED within five years of entering high school was just 27.7 percent, challenging the assertion that low 4-year graduation rates are due to credit deficiencies when students enroll.

 

oregonvirtualacademy

Another virtual charter school in Oregon powered by K12 Inc. is Oregon Virtual Academy (OVA), sponsored by North Bend School District 13.  “Oregon Virtual Academy awakens the power of learning in students through a personalized program of engaging courses, caring teachers, and a vibrant school community,” says the school’s website.

But, as at Insight, that awakening doesn’t appear to have brought about academic excellence, or even middling success.

For the 2015-16 school year, the North Bend School District received ​$14,874,303 ​from the State School Fund because of its sponsorship of OVA. The District retained $961,681 of that money and forwarded $13,912,622​ to OVA. OVA’s distribution was likely larger in 2016-17 because of increased enrollment.

But who was being taught with all that money? During the 2015-16 school year, OVA’s absentee rate was 41 percent. The lowest rate of absenteeism, 12 percent, was with 1st graders, the highest rate, 68 percent, with 12th graders.

And its academic performance is dreadful, contrary to an assertion by Interim Head of School Dr. Debbie Chrisop that “ORVA provides an education that meets or exceeds state standards, and students demonstrate their knowledge and skills through state standardized tests.”

With enrollment of 2,142 students from nearly every county in Oregon during 2016-17, only 47.9 percent of those tested in English Language Arts and 23 percent of those tested in Mathematics met the state standard for college/career readiness. Fewer than half, 44.1 percent, met or exceeded the state standard in Science. Worse, the Mathematics and Science scores have been going down each year for the past three years.

OVA’s graduation rate for in 2016 was just 28.3 percent, placing it among the worst performing 5 percent of all public schools in the state. Its 2017 rate has not yet been released.

Jessica Schuler, K12’s Corporate Communications Manager, offered the same explanation for the low graduation rates as other virtual charter schools. Every high school student enrolled in Insight School transferred in from another school or education program, she said. Furthermore, high percentages of these students enter behind in credits and not on track to graduate on time. The federal four-year cohort graduation rate does not account for this, she said.

The four-year cohort graduation rate unfairly penalizes schools with high mobility that serve under-credited transfer students (The grad rate of the sending school/district is not affected), Schuler said.  Even though these transfer students successfully earn high credits at Insight, they are unable to graduate “on time” in their four-year cohort, thus negatively impacting Insight’s grad rate.

A problem with this explanation is that even the share of students earning a regular, modified, extended, or adult high school diploma or completing a GED within five years of entering high school was just 42.8 percent, compared with 81.9 percent at all public schools statewide. Again, this challenges the common assertion that low student performance is due to the enrollment of many students who are credit deficient.

Excuses, excuses.

The fact is, full-time virtual schooling is the wrong solution for many young people, particularly those who are already struggling in a traditional hands-on school.

“Current online charter schools may be a good fit for some students, but the evidence indicates that online charters don’t serve very well the relatively atypical set of students that currently attend these schools, much less the general population,” said Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) in a 2015 report. “Academic benefits from online charter schools are currently the exception rather than the rule.”

In the same vein, a 2017 report from the Colorado-based National Education Policy Center (NEPC) concluded, “There is…little high-quality systematic evidence that the rapid expansion of (virtual charter schools) the past several years is wise. Research has …consistently found that students enrolled in full-time virtual schools have performed at levels well below their face-to-face counterparts.”

A 2016 Fordham Institute study of virtual charter schools reached similar conclusions. “Online schools offer an efficient way to diversify—and even democratize—education in a connected world,” the study said. “Yet they have received negative, but well-deserved, attention concerning their poor academic performance, attrition rates, and ill capacity to educate the types of students who enroll in them.”

Gov. Kate Brown and state legislators constantly reaffirm their commitment to ensuring Oregonians receive a quality education and that public dollars are spent wisely.

If these politicians mean what they say, why are these two schools being allowed to continue sucking up Oregon taxpayer dollars while failing to adequately educate Oregon children?

It’s time for the Oregon Legislature to act on failing virtual charter schools . The next session, which starts Feb. 1, 2018, will be a good time to start.

 

READ MORE about Oregon charter schools:

Virtual Charter Schools Don’t Compute

Too many Oregon virtual charter school students skip state tests

PERS problems? Some charter schools say, “Fugettaboutit”