Embrace groundbreaking reform of education PDF Print E-mail

Original Source | The Statesman Journal
By Ken Thrasher, Wednesday March 30, 2011

"Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."

As the Legislature does the difficult work of making policy and adopting a two-year budget for the state, the words of Booker T. Washington, an education reformer from another time, should be reverberating in the state Capitol as if they were spoken today.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has proposed a restructuring, a revitalization, a recommitment of our public-education system, so vast and so farsighted that we risk not recognizing it for the watershed moment it is. That would be a shame.

At the heart of the governor's plan is replacing Oregon's current fragmented approach to delivering early childhood services with an integrated, outcomes-focused system that does not currently exist.

While details of the plan's implementation need to be worked out, the concept as outlined by the governor's Early Childhood and Family Investment Transition Report is the most significant education policy proposal to surface in 20 years.

The Children's Institute, Oregon's leading early childhood policy organization, recently endorsed Gov. Kitzhaber's plan. Citing the plan's focus on data-driven outcomes, return on investment and a streamlined delivery system, the vote by board members was a unanimous sign of support for a plan that would implement many of the institute's policy goals.

Ironically, the economic crisis that continues to hobble Oregon has forced the dominant education-policy discussion away from a stubborn single-mindedness about funding to a refreshing focus on reform.

Before the Legislature now are bills that would set the governor's plan in motion. In particular, I encourage the Legislature to support the creation and funding of the Early Learning Council as a first step toward a thoughtful consolidation and integration of more than a dozen programs now spread across six state agencies.

Gov. Kitzhaber has answered a persistent call from all corners of the state to create a continuum of education from cradle to career; and the work has already begun. Experts and stakeholders, serving as a statewide team, are volunteering their time and talent to create an implementation plan. Everyone involved - directly or indirectly - should prepare to let go of the program silos that typify our current structure and hinder progress.

Now is the time for all of us to muster the courage necessary to change the direction Oregon is headed. In this crisis, and with this plan, Oregon has the opportunity to build on the work Booker T. Washington started more than 100 years ago. Starting this legislative session, let's begin the transition to a modern-day system of education that will pave the way to a more prosperous Oregon for everyone.

Ken Thrasher of Portland is chairman of the board at Compli. Prior to Compli, he was president and CEO of Fred Meyer Stores. He serves on the boards of NW Natural, The Jensen Fund, GSL Inc., Children's Institute, Oregon Mentors, Friends of the Children, Innovation Partnership, Oregon Business Council, PSU Foundation and the Dean's Circle for the College of Business at OSU.He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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