State Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, and Bud Laurent, his Democratic challenger, have different recommendations for improving the results of Oregon schools.
The candidates for the Oregon House in District 15 also differ in their responses to questions about taxes and several other issues.
A sampling from a questionnaire submitted to them by the D-H:
What should Oregon do to increase student achievement in public schools?
Olson said that “adequate, stable accountable dollars” are a start, and the Republicans would have provided more last session than the schools actually got.
Beyond that, Olson said: “We also need to reduce the paperwork, mandated testing and other red tape that we continue to heap on educators and administrators so that they can teach and help their students learn, not just pass a test.
“In addition, we need to reduce class sizes ... If we are able to reduce the PERS burden placed on local school districts, more money can be freed up to hire more teachers, which ultimately takes pressure off teachers and helps students.”
Laurent’s top recommendation was to “implement a more effective problem-solving curriculum, from kindergarten through graduate school. American students fare poorly when compared to the rest of the world in problem-solving skills — 26th by one measure.”
Laurent also recommended:
“Re-establish and invigorate vocational education in middle and high schools, and celebrate it to the same degree that academic, athletic or artistic achievements are celebrated ... We’ve done a real disservice by reducing or eliminating vocational education, especially if we ever intend to recover our ability to produce things for ourselves — and for the rest of the world.”
Laurent also called for stabilizing education funding through comprehensive revenue reform. Further, he proposed: “Empanel (a) short-term commission of recent teachers of the year from around the state, along with a similar number of successful students, and ask them what they would do to improve education in Oregon. That list could then become a call to action for the legislature and local school districts to make the changes called for.”
Abortion: Do you consider yourself more pro-choice or more pro-life?
Olson: “More pro-life.”
Laurent: “I don’t find those labels useful. My basic belief is that every child should be a wanted child in a loving family, and that a woman has a fundamental right to make her own informed decision about becoming pregnant. I support Oregon’s laws regarding abortions, rates for which are thankfully declining due to better reproductive education and improved access to contraception.”
Do you support capital punishment for certain crimes?
Laurent: “This is not likely to be a legislative matter. Only two executions in Oregon have occurred since 1976 — both under Governor Kitzhaber — and capital punishment has been mandated for aggravated murder by voters since 1984’s Measure 6 was approved. Therefore, only voters— or a court — may alter this.”
Should marriages continue to be restricted to one man and one woman each?
Olson: “Ballot Measure 57 received nearly 57 percent approval by Oregonians in 2004, defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. I continue to support that position..”
Laurent: “In America, the government has no business telling churches how to practice their religions, absent clear violation of basic laws meant to protect individuals (polygamy, coercion, fraud, abuse, etc.). Civil unions are another matter, and these should be subject to the same equal protection rights that all Americans should enjoy.”
What changes would you support in Oregon’s tax system?
Olson: “Dedicate 1 percent of general fund revenue to the Oregon Rainy Day Fund, forcing the legislature to save money before it spends it all ...; reduce Oregon’s high capital gains taxes to promote reinvestment and job creation; reduce Oregon’s high estate taxes to protect family business; extend eligibility for qualifying small businesses operating in enterprise zones ...; helping small businesses survive the downturn and retain employees by allowing them to defer state taxes until the economy improves.”
Laurent: “Oregon’s tax system is in need of comprehensive reform. Income taxes are too high (personal income taxes are the fifth highest in the nation), too volatile during times of recession, and comprise too much of the general fund (about 93 percent). Oregon needs to have more stable forms of revenue that are also fair to the majority of Oregonians: middle income workers and families.
“Legislators have the responsibility of conducting community discussions in the first half of 2011 about the choices facing Oregon unless we reform what most acknowledge is a dysfunctional system of taxes and revenues, and then acting upon the changes that Oregonians can support.”
Should Oregon police be allowed to enforce immigration law?
Olson: “Clearly the majority of Oregonians want to see immigrants be able to live in Oregon, but legally. Currently Oregon is a sanctuary state; HB 3440 (2009), which I supported, would have returned authorization to law enforcement to take individuals into custody who were illegally in state state. ... The reason for taking action would be secondary, not the primary reason for the police stop.”
Laurent: “Federal immigration laws are the responsibility of federal agencies. Our state and local police are already stretched thin and are not lobbying to assume this responsibility. Oregon agriculture industry is also on record as opposing local or state enforcement of immigration laws. However, police can and should submit information to federal agencies for verification of status of potential felons in custody and suspected of being undocumented.”