EDUCATION

Beaverton, Oregon Parents Saw Effects Of Teacher Layoffs, Ask School Board: 'Please Tax Me'

Teacher Sarah Morse, center, helps during lunch at the Eastham Community Center Claskamas County Children's Commission Head S
Teacher Sarah Morse, center, helps during lunch at the Eastham Community Center Claskamas County Children's Commission Head Start Monday, April 9, 2012, in Oregon City, Ore. Oregon enrolls relatively few children in its state-funded pre-kindergarten program, but spends more money per student than almost every state, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the National Institute for Early Education. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Parents in Beaverton, Ore. are asking the school board to tax them more.

One year after Beaverton voters rejected a local option levy that would have raised $14 million for schools, 344 school positions have been axed amid a large budget deficit and class sizes have ballooned.

As a result, some classes number around 50 students, preventing teachers from offering one-on-one assistance. Teachers have been reshuffled to fill vacancies, often teaching subjects they have little or no experience in.

"We're experiencing our own hurricane," parent Beth Estock told The Oregonian.

Students are also concerned that they may not pass the International Baccalaureate exams after losing IB-trained teachers to transfers. Eighth grader Veronika Nagy tells The Oregonian that her math education is so hindered by a large class that her mom hired a math tutor -- a laid off Beaverton teacher.

Seeing the effects of last year's failed levy, parents are proposing another local option levy for the May ballot.

School funding in Oregon is largely determined by the state Legislature, but a local option allows localities to make some funding decisions for their own schools. The levies in Beaverton are based in part on home market values -- the rejected November proposal would have been $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed value per year for five years.

Beaverton is just one of the districts nationwide that have been aversely affected by budget constraints. Since the end of the recession three years ago, 300,000 teachers have lost their jobs, and 292 school districts have cut back on schedules -- reducing to four-day school weeks and dropping full-day kindergarten. The national ratio of students to teachers increased by 4.6 percent between 2008 and 2010.

But communities are seeing the toll on public schools, and many states showed their belief in education during the election. While the sentiment wasn't universal -- Arizona, for example, rejected a $625 million push to give a major boost to K-12 funding through a $0.01 permanent sales tax increase, California voters opted for a sales and income tax increase to save the state's schools from a $4.8 billion cut from school funding.

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