Fw: In Oregon (US) le scuole pubbliche chiudono per mancanza di fondi ...

Hillsboro public school district, summer vacation is coming real soon.

01/mag/2003 21:34:06 Luigi Sedita Contatta l'autore

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In Oregon (US) le scuole pubbliche chiudono per mancanza di fondi.
Non era accaduto neanche durante la Grande Depressione.
The New York Times

May 1, 2003

Teaching Kids a Lesson



It's still chilly in northwestern Oregon, and there's a real bite to the wind in the evenings. But for the 19,000 students in the sprawling Hillsboro public school district, summer vacation is coming real soon.

Starved for money, Hillsboro lopped 17 days off the school year. It is not alone. Throughout this budget-stricken state, school districts are dismantling programs, firing employees and tearing pages off the school calendar.

There's a twist on an old adage at work here - if it ain't broke, break it. The Oregon public school system was terrific, one of the best in the nation. Now, suddenly, it's speeding along the road to ruin, the victim of a bad economy and, more than anything else, the radical antitax fever that has gripped so many Americans.

The idea that American kids in 2003 - first and second graders, juniors and seniors in high school - could be forced out of their classrooms because the public will not come up with the money to pay for them is astonishing.

"During the Great Depression we didn't close schools," said Dr. Walter Hellman, a physics teacher at Hillsboro High School. "We didn't close schools during World War II. Are we the most civically irresponsible generation in Oregon in 100 years? That's a problem."

Oregon is experiencing a budget meltdown. Home to Intel and other high-tech highfliers, it suffered disproportionately from the bursting of the technology bubble. Its jobless rate is the highest in the U.S. And it is being squeezed, like many other states, by a dismal national economy.

The result has been a hemorrhaging of state revenues so severe that such fundamental services as schools, basic health care and law enforcement have been undermined. A ballot proposal to raise the state income tax temporarily and thus ward off at least some of the cuts to schools and to services desperately needed by the sick and the disabled was rejected by voters in January.

Something ugly is happening in Oregon, and it is not unrelated to the sense of economic insecurity and the erosion of support for traditional public services that have spread across the U.S. There is a faint but unmistakable whiff of the Depression in the air. The states, collectively, are mired in their worst budget situation in half a century. Long-term unemployment across the country is way up. The lines at food banks are lengthening. And hard-core child poverty, only recently on the run, is threatening a comeback.

For years the residents of Hillsboro, a scenic suburb of Portland, felt insulated from such problems. More than 80 percent of the parents send their children to the public schools, which by all accounts have been thriving. But school funding in Oregon is a state responsibility, and neither the Legislature nor the voters have been willing to raise the additional money needed to keep the system going.

Now, in Hillsboro and other districts, there's not even enough money to keep the schools open a full year.

"The kids are being told their schools are not important and we can close them, and that's how you balance the state budget," said Ike Maness, president of the Hillsboro Education Association. "People are starting to refer to Oregon as the Mississippi of the West."

One of the more mature approaches to the crisis is coming from Ian Atkins, an 18-year-old senior at Glencoe High School who could fit the stereotype of the all-American kid. He played football and baseball, ran track and participated in poetry jams. A music program in elementary school enabled him to go on to the Portland Symphonic Boy Choir. In September he will begin classes at the University of Oregon.

Mr. Atkins is dismayed by the trashing of a school system that treated him so well. He noted that even deeper cuts are planned for next year.

"I've had so many opportunities, including sports and all the electives," he said. "It's not fair that the same classes and the same opportunities won't be around for the kids who are coming up through the schools now."

He and another student have organized a campaign to save the system. They are not casting blame, and they don't want to hear excuses. They are simply demanding that state legislators and other responsible officials find a solution - and soon - to a problem that is as absurd as it is destructive.   


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Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2003 4:51 PM
Subject: Teaching Kids a Lesson

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