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A. Like I think the State Government should. Keep the schools open for us. I don't think that you know they should make us fight all the time. But fighting it is exactly what David Douglas High School students are doing these days.
This week voters in the David Douglas school district decide on whether the schools stay open and the students hope voters are listening to their rallying cry. Well for the older kids I have a sister that lives in Salem and it's possible that they could go live with her and go to school in Salem. But the younger kids. I would probably just keep my home and do the best I could and hope I could you know get him through to the next year just with myself trying to teach him but I don't know. Imagine teaching your children at home because your district runs out of money and schools are forced to close. It almost happened in Dayton Oregon because that district didn't have enough operating funds to keep its schools open and see how a special breed of dog is being used as an alternative to traps and poisons and keeping predators away for sheep. You'll see those stories tonight here on Front Street weekly Oregon Public Television's news magazine. I'm Jim Swanson. And I'm going to gamble booth. Two segments of this evening's program examine
Oregon school funding crisis on Thursday February 6th voters in the David Douglas school district will decide whether to vote for a multimillion dollar school levy if the levy does not pass the district's 11 schools will close later this month. Many of the district's students ignored the first three levee elections. But as Marilyn Deutsch reports few are keeping quiet now. The boom. Boom boom. We. Know where our you know democracy students a day the Douglas High School in Portland Oregon are learning a lesson in American politics. Across America the right to a free public school education is taken for granted here in the David Douglas school district. Students are fighting to stay in the classroom. Seniors want their diplomas but voters think the price is too high.
So you can be convinced of the invisible to say yes we're going to help the day the Douglas school district 11 schools in all could shut down at the end of the mom. That is if Thursday voters turned down a 3.7 million dollar school levy. Levy would hike up local property taxes for most homeowners roughly 40 dollars a year. District voters have already said no three times to the levy. But this time the till runs dry. School could be out from two to six weeks for 6000 David Douglas students. You know education is a necessity we all need it and we all need to be in school learning. You know I mean you know nothing. If it weren't for the coming showdown between voters and students the David Douglas school district would be quite unremarkable. Mostly white mostly blue collar. To understand why this community
might shut down its schools. First some economics. Yes. In Oregon Public education is financed mostly through local property taxes. That's unusual and like homeowners elsewhere Oregonians are tired of those high taxes. Most states pay half a local district's costs. But Oregon pays just one quarter of David Douglas his yearly budget. As a result. David Douglas is like one third of Oregon school districts. It survives hand to mouth asking voters for more money each and every year. Until the inflation of the 70s and the recession of the 80s. The system worked. But in the past decade eight school districts have closed down some for as long as two months. And now many say Oregon's formula for financing schools is as outdated as the slide rule. We're the only state that allows this. We're being laughed at. We saw a lot of schools to be closed because
we ran out of money. That's silly. The David Douglas school district is just one of many school districts across Oregon. The start of the school year not knowing if they had the money to finish two districts eventually closed and reopened. For a handful of David Douglas the school year still up to the voters. There's a possibility that it will close and you know that you know that your education is you know important because the kids if it's not there I mean you have an office to go. With the threat of no more academics for a while. Students at David Douglas High School are picking up some quick lessons in elementary civics. It's an education not confined to the classroom. I was just calling to remind you about. After hours and on weekends students are finding out with good old fashioned grassroots politics is all about phone banks. And handshakes. Don West and David Douglas were right scar. You know me and we'd like to hang up our signs here. That we
could. Get public support and help. Pastor Levy the students are trying to sway public opinion in their own self-interest. What could be more American. You know we want to come in here to. Save our school because without our school we will get our diploma and then mess things up like no summer jobs and you know maybe no college in the fall. Students already boast some tangible results. Voter registrations up 20 percent. But three out of four voters in the school district don't even send children to the local schools. That's because most of the voters are senior citizens living on fixed incomes. Taxes are going up all over. The school levy is one tax they can control you can afford. They've had a chance to go to school I should have a chance. My taxes are eleven hundred sixty one. Not all senior citizens are voting no and not all the no votes are coming from senior
citizens. Show me where those. Texas Burr-Brown 6 year old daughter Rachel attends elementary school in the district. But Brown thinks he'll vote no. So is the school board should trim the budget and tighten up just a little bit more to the point that the rest of the taxpayers are going to pay for the rest. We've got 600000 this year alone. From when we first started voting in May. The cuts have been made. Indeed the districts laid off 84 teachers in the past five years. Class sizes are up 20 percent and now some so-called frills are no longer free. If you want to play varsity sports you must pay for the privilege. In the last year the school district's budget has gone up three percent. I feel that our school district has been doing its part in terms of holding down costs and coming in with budgets that have been low cost of living
raise. Your voice. Lord. I think it's really. Frightening. Despite the arguments over just how well the schools are run parents and students worry about what will happen to them and their community if the schools close later this month some of the kids will forget what. You. Think of school was always being there. Now one of those things that's always being there but here it may not I may not be there you know turning into good citizens if you don't get a good education. Thursday students will learn if they drum their message home. Of all their works won the election. For now they're both hopeful and critical. The State Government should keep the schools open for us. I don't think that
you know they should make us fight all the time. The scene after a college history about financing college. We shouldn't have to worry about graduating class and to expect but in Oregon more and more students campaign for their education and learn some politics too. If the levee was going to fail it failed three times and I hadn't done a thing to do to try and prevent that. So I decided that if it failed the fourth time at least I would know that I tried. While students of David Douglas school district fight to bring local attention to their cause in 1985 articles in The L.A. Times The New York Times brought national attention to Oregon and the press wasn't good news of Oregon school funding crisis smeared the state's open for business image. Dayton Oregon a farming community hard hit by inflation recession
and high taxes. Within a few days voters here will decide if they can afford to keep their local schools open. If six hundred fifty two students in Dayton find school doors close it won't be a first. Two other districts in Oregon have closed this year because voters didn't come up with the money from local property taxes. Schools stay closed until voters change their minds. Thank Paul is thinking about how he's going to vote. He says most people he knows think state and schools are pretty good. But like people all over the state they're angry about high property taxes. So they may vote no. The farmer is not coming down the road pretty good. In some cases this year a lot of them a lot of them aren't making it. And how they're going to pay an additional tax is anybody's guess. If the school levy is voted down Carol Jensen has a plan but she doesn't like it much.
Well for the older kids I have a sister that lives in Phantom and it's possible that they could go live with her and go to school and family but the younger kids I would probably just keep my home and do the best I could and hope I. Could. You know get him through to the next year just with myself trying to teach him. I don't know. In order to understand why schools close in Oregon it's important to remember that funding is piecemeal. About 30 percent comes from the state in the form of basic school support. About 10 percent from the federal government and the rest from local sources primarily voter approved property taxes. Over the years many school districts have voted to establish tax bases this dedicate a certain amount of local property tax money per year to schools on a continuing basis. But some schools in Oregon have no tax base at all. And one hundred twenty six Oregon school districts have tax bases which are woefully inadequate to cover school costs. Voters must then approve a special levy used to fund the
schools. The tin cup approach is built into the system. Dayton's 25 year old tax base can keep the schools running for only half a year. In January school superintendent Leslie Wolf will need three million dollars to continue classes. It's the fourth time he's gone to the voters. He says he's repeatedly cut his budget our budget this year compared to three years ago. We are ninety thousand dollars less than we were three years ago so actually our our request is lower than it was three years ago at this time. So we've cut our budget in a period of inflation and that's one of the points we're trying to sell the people. Wolfe says he would rather cut maintenance than X programs like science math or music. We have dry rot in a couple of schools. We are some of our roofs are bad our lighting is bad the plaster is falling out of some of the ceilings in the high
school and we're just going to have to catch up on these things on these days but. We did that because we kept cutting the budget. While Dayton is property tax for other districts. Our property tax rich because of a concentration of industry timber and other resources. In Oregon where you live determines your share of the local school tax burden. While the owner of an average home here in Dayton might pay eight hundred and three dollars a year. The tax bill on the identical home in the community of jewel. Would be only one hundred seventy dollars. The one hundred twenty four students in jewel aren't worried about school closure. Their district has 4.7 million dollars in the bank. Timber receipts from county owned land keep their tax levy below that of their tax base even though operating costs are high. With an average of eight grade school students per teacher. School superintendent Bernard Adamson is aware that his district is lucky.
We have facilities for this small number of students. You know probably exceed what the normal guys. But is there by necessity of having a program not not to have an excessive. Costly one. There are a few frills. A 29 computer laboratory eighty acres of land for agricultural study a new outdoor track and a herd of cattle which supplies hamburgers for the cafeteria. It's clear to Leslie Wolfe in Dayton that school funding through property taxes is not equitable. This is what he'd like to see equal distribution of wealth throughout the whole state for all of the students of the state based on a property tax where parents in one district are paying the same taxes as parents another district under water system. All property taxes would be collected by the state and redistributed to each district on a
per pupil basis. But Adamson says no to sharing the wealth. The fact that we're spending more than in other schools you know is unfortunate but. On the other hand the revenues from this district were made possible by the patrons. And so I think I don't really support the idea that there must be an equalization I think it would be ideal but I don't think it's realistic. Surprisingly Hank Paul in Dayton isn't sold on the idea of his property taxes going to the state and being redistributed either. They might have local control for a couple of years and then they would want something in the legislature that would take it away from they lose it all. So control of local purse strings is an issue in both tax rich and tax poor districts. Most voters want to keep school dollars close to home. And they want to keep the local schools the center of their community. School consolidation is
viewed with fear and suspicion by many voters. This despite the fact that money is often saved when school districts merge. People don't want strangers a few miles down the road to handle their property tax dollars. Oregon's three hundred and six school districts are expensive to operate. The per pupil cost is a tie up in the nation. But the 30 percent state funding is fifth lowest. Tough economic times make additional revenues difficult to come by. Recently a statewide sales tax designed in part to help education was soundly defeated. Some state legislators think Oregon school funding system is not all that bad despite closures and don't think the legislature should step in to keep schools open. State Senator Ed fatally is one I think we could have by a special session. Easily put up enough money to keep the three or four districts out of 400. In operation.
But the problems in those districts might not have been solved simply by keeping them in operation. There is indeed a breakdown of the community's ability to resolve the dispute between the school board and the school employees on the one hand and the taxpayers on the other and giving them the money would paper that over be good for the children who are in school then. But you would still have the dispirit Bailey says a lot of threatened closures are due to local bickering not money. He says schools would stay open if each district voted for a modern tech space. If schools cut some administrators and local back taxes could be collected sooner she says he doesn't think fatally understands how for some districts are. Poor to me means when I go knock on the home of a person on retirement and if they vote to pass a school levy and that starts to threaten their ability to keep their homes that's
poor. Despite funding problems Oregon schools rank in the upper 10 percent academically and nationwide testing. Because of a school closure situation people are getting a false image of Oregon. It's just a structural problem we have to change. State Superintendent of Schools Vernon Duncan who is tired of bad press all over the country says the fault is not with the quality of education but the way it is funded. The funding system says Duncan is in a crisis situation. I think it's a travesty and that we close schools. I'm not talking about closing schools because of declining enrollment and I'm talking about when you close a whole school district with the only state in the union where that happens because in our system Duncan calls for immediate help from the next legislative
session. So far not much has happened but a few ideas are floating around. More flexible use of state funding. Central distribution of property taxes and a safety net solution. The safety net would fund schools at the previous year's budget if voters twice failed to pass a levy. Meanwhile some schools are still threatened with closures and some people around the state point to the constitutional right of all Oregon students for a uniform system of education closures they say violate that right. And the state may be facing a lawsuit if we get to a point where I see no hope. You know and no way out of it then and I think I would. I might even encourage one thanks maybe I'll be one of the signers of the petition. But Richard Eisenhower a school superintendent from Roseburg Oregon isn't sure even the court mandate would solve the problem. The courts might say well that isn't an unfair kind of situation and turn to the state legislature or the local school levels and say Now solve
that and then we're back to where we were other than with another mandate. And again faced with the situation and going to the voters who might reject something just because it was court ordered them. So while school administrators politicians voters and perhaps even the courts continue the dialogue many school districts are struggling to survive. On December 17th today in school levy passed by 233 votes in March. Several more districts will try to convince local voters that their school should stay open. And while some work to change the system other districts will be hoping to hear change in their tin cups. Well there's a special breed of dog which is being used by ranchers across the country to guard sheep. Now training this dog for its job requires little more than keeping it with the sheep from the time it's born and that way the dog forms its primary attachment to the sheep rather than to humans and that bond brings out a protective nature
in the dog as if it's protecting one of its own because out at reports on livestock guard dogs and Oregon's unique predator control program. Sheep dogs most commonly thought of as the herding dogs used to gather more than sort sheep. But there's another specially bred and trained kind of sheep dog one called a livestock Guardian dog. A modern day shepherd of sorts these dogs watch over the sheep protecting them from intruders. Livestock guarding dogs used in Europe for over five hundred years have recently come to the United States. From Yugoslavia we get a dog called the sharpener. From Turkey the Anatolian Shepherd and from Italy the Maremma old world Europeans have selected a dog not to miss a behaviorist or
just rows with the sheep as another flock member in 1977 with a growing interest by many in this country to find ways of controlling predators without using traps and poisons. A man named Roy cop and tour of Hampshire College brought several of the guard dogs over from Europe in 1979 Dr. Kopans are successfully placed two of the dogs on farms in eastern Oregon. More followed in 1981. The success of the dogs in the state made it the perfect site choice for a three year pilot program to encourage the use of the guard dogs. The program was supported early on by Defenders of Wildlife. Well for many years we've been concerned about the use of poisons and traps and predator control and so this program was presented to us as an alternative to those more objectionable techniques and so we went to Congress with a proposal to fund the pilot project in Oregon. We also got money from the state legislature in Oregon although there are other states using the dogs today. Oregon has the only statewide program one sponsored by the state extension
service. Jailor in started working with Dr. Karp and you're back in Massachusetts as a wildlife specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. He now directs the program here. The goals of our program are really to conduct an educational program. And teaching the sheep producers about the dogs. And also it's it's a research program in terms of evaluating the performance of the dogs. And it's it's a learning process to find out how to manage the dogs and how to make this an ecologically sound and effective technique and predator control. The dogs can either be purchased from a private breeder where they cost anywhere from two hundred fifty to $700 or leased through the Hampshire College Program for one hundred twenty dollars a year leasing the dog seems to be the most popular on branches of all sizes throughout the state. Mike Atherton has a large range operation. About a hundred seventy sheep average and frequently moved his flock from one location to another.
The clear cuts of this I use a LED National Forest in the summer to the grass fields of the Willamette Valley during the winter. Mike had problems with coyotes killing his using lambs trapping didn't work so he decided to try guarding dogs. I would wouldn't go back to running sheep without a dog. I want to raise sheep and make money you better get a guard dog. It takes a little while to train the sheep for the dogs. But once you get that relationship established the sheep know that the dog is there to. Protect them I guess I don't know if they know that or not but they do know that when the dog barks. They get into a bunch and generally they'll they'll go right to the dog. John gets very uses his guard dog on a small 55 acre farm near Oregon City. Being close to both a suburban neighborhood and a forest. He used to have trouble with coyotes and domestic dogs killing his sheep. Yes Barry has had his dog for almost two years
now and many of his sheep have been saved. He recalls one instance when the dog was circling a newborn lamb to keep a coyote away. At first I thought that you know maybe the dogs get ready to attack the lamb but I thought no I don't know she's never exhibited that kind of behavior. Well I got to looking up the hill a little ways. There was a coyote about maybe 30 or 40 feet up the hill just standing there watching the whole thing. The dog never made made a move towards a coyote but. It just kept circling and circling its main goal was to protect the sheep which is you know I think the important thing with guard dogs Lynn says the pilot project has been very successful in Oregon. I recently evaluation showed that the number of guard dogs in the state has doubled in the last year. Today there are one hundred twenty five dogs on farms and ranches throughout the state. The dogs themselves are getting good in excellent ratings and their working behavior with the sheep
and the rate of predation has been reduced. So I'd like to use more widespread use of the dogs and I think that the guiding dogs run many people can be the best first line of defense. I think it's definitely worth it. Actually it's not all that hard and the rewards are. And I can sleep at night. So what if you really put everyone who's responsible for the sheep. Peace of mind. That's an interesting story there a lot of ranchers who are interested in watching the results of this experiment to see whether or not this really is an alternative to trapping or poisons. It certainly seems a lot safer to me and it won't upset the ecological balance which is what some other things will do. I like to have there are some ranchers who'd argue with that and say that the population of coyotes will increase as a result of using these camp techniques but that remains to be seen. We also remain to be seen next week and on the next edition of French Street weekly
Front Street Weekly
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Front Street Weekly is a news magazine featuring segments on current events and topics of interest to the local community.
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Chicago: “Front Street Weekly; 513,” 1986-02-06, Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 26, 2022,
MLA: “Front Street Weekly; 513.” 1986-02-06. Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Front Street Weekly; 513. Boston, MA: Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from