2 Oregon Colleges May Abolish Teacher Preparation

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Faced with a property-tax rollback that will mean dwindling dollars for schools, Oregon officials may attempt to salvage a portion of precollegiate-education funding by severely curtailing the preparation and education of teachers at the two leading state universities.

Under a proposal to come before the state board of higher education on March 1, Oregon State University would abolish its college of education and the University of Oregon would excise the teacher-education division of its education college.

Should the plan be approved, Oregon State would become the only land-grant university in the nation without an education college.

And the University of Oregon would become the first member of the Holmes Group, whose aim is to reform teaching and teacher preparation, to drop teacher education.

The cutbacks would leave the majority of teacher candidates to pursue their education at Portland State University, an urban commuter campus that has only recently emerged as a more comprehensive institution, or at three regional colleges that began as normal schools.

"Teacher education is being pushed back into the normal-school model that we had 50 years ago," said Wayne D. Haverson, chief executive officer of Oregon State's college of education.

"We will be spending lots of money on veterinarian [students] to take care of our pets, but not to train people to take care of our most precious resource, our children," he added.

In November, Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment rolling back property taxes. In the current fiscal year, property taxes earmarked for education have been capped at $15 per $1,000 of market value. Each succeeding year the rate will be reduced until it reaches $5 per $1,000 in fiscal 1995-96.

The law also limits property taxes used for nonschool purposes.

During the five-year phase-in period, the state legislature is required to replace the school revenue with money from the state's general fund.

Despite this provision, K-12 programs are expected to lose funding. The state is replacing about $200 million of a projected loss of $215 million this fiscal year, out of a $1.5 billion base, according to Walter Koscher, coordinator for school finance and data information for the state education department. In addition, there will be no adjustments for inflation or increased enrollment, he said.

To offset pressure on the general fund, state officials have sought cuts in other state programs. Higher education's share of the cuts will be $85.6 million for the 1991-93 biennium unless the legislature changes the formula or proposes new sources of revenue such as a sales tax.

To achieve this goal, enrollment at state universities will be cut by more than 10 percent, and 500 to 700 faculty and administrative positions will be eliminated. Depending on the program they are in, officials say, underclassmen could find themselves without a slot at any of the state schools.

Furthermore, university students are facing 6.7 percent tuition hikes and a $200 per quarter surcharge, or a nearly 40 percent total cost increase in a single year.

Additional cuts will have to be made in the next biennium unless the legislature acts.

Chancellor Thomas Bartlett authorized officials on each campus to draft proposals to meet their targeted reductions in state aid.

One of the guiding principles, according to university officials, was safeguarding the central mission of each of the system's eight campuses. The University of Oregon, in Eugene, is renowned for its liberal-arts college; Oregon State's preeminence is in engineering and agriculture.

There are a total of 15 public or private institutions that prepare teachers. "We simply have to look very, very hard at any of the duplicated areas and ask what can we do in relation to the missions of the various campuses," said Shirley Clark, vice chancellor for academic affairs.

University officials, however, concede that even though the other four public colleges have sound teacher-education programs, they lack both the research base and the depth in liberal arts that education reformers say teachers need to meet the challenges of today's classroom.

"It's not a reflection on them, but the nature of their job," said Mr. Haverson.

Paraphrasing the research findings of John I. Goodlad, David G. Imig, executive director of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, observed that "if the flagship institution does not value [teacher education], then other institutions in the state won't value it as well."

As a result, said Mr. Imig, from a policy standpoint, the diminution of teacher education diverts attention from the reform of schools.

His organization has asked the higher-education board to reconsider the cuts.

"It's a travesty that one of Oregon's major universities would abandon this responsibility at this critical juncture," said Judith Lanier, president of the Holmes Group, to which the University of Oregon belongs.

Ms. Lanier said the action runs counter to the idea that teacher education is the responsibility of the entire university.

Spokesmen for the presidents say that their choices were limited because earlier rounds of cuts left no room to spare.

"Unfortunately, the University of Oregon couldn't decide what to cut out of somebody else's program," said Gaye Vandermyn, assistant vice president for communications.

"The direction from the governor and the state board was the cuts would be made selectively," she added. "There were no options but to treat the cuts in terms of identifying whole programs or departments that could be eliminated."

In the past few years, both education colleges had been strengthening their teacher-education programs. The University of Oregon had been hiring staff and hoped to be "on the leading edge" of teacher education in the region, said Robert D. Gilberts, dean of education at the school.

Oregon State, in Corvallis, had geared up for a five-year program that would have eliminated the undergraduate education degree.

Under the proposal, Oregon State would retain some of its elementary-education programs, which would be moved into the college of home economics and offered as a master of arts in teaching. Some secondary-education masters' degrees would be offered through the relevant subject-matter college.

The University of Oregon would continue to produce teachers of special education, music, and foreign languages. It also would maintain its research and development program, but Mr. Gilberts fears that too would erode because the heart of the program would have been removed.

Vol. 10, Issue 22, Page 5

Published in Print: February 20, 1991, as 2 Oregon Colleges May Abolish Teacher Preparation
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