Education Funding

Charity Breaks With Ore. District; ‘Liberal’ Policies Cited

By Michelle Galley — October 09, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A charity that has provided scholarship money for students in the town of Philomath, Ore., apparently is severing its long-standing ties to the local school district.

Since 1964, virtually every student graduating from the 650-student Philomath High School has been eligible to receive a four-year college scholarship, for up to $4,000 a year, from the Clemens Foundation. The philanthropy was established with timber profits made by Rex and Ethel Clemens shortly after the Great Depression.

But students will no longer be eligible for the scholarship aid, reportedly because the charity disapproves of some of the district’s policies on controversial topics such as student dress and a club to help gay and lesbian youths.

Officials at the Clemens Foundation refused to confirm reports that the philanthropy was changing eligibility requirements for its scholarship program. But Terry Kneisler, the superintendent of the 1,900-student Philomath district, said parents and students in the community were very concerned about a policy change.

“The foundation is an independent organization, and we don’t have anything to say about how they operate,” Mr. Kneisler said.

Seniors at Philomath High School will not receive the scholarships because of “liberal” and “politically correct” policies the district has recently implemented, Steve Lowther, a nephew of Rex and Ethel Clemens’ who sits on the foundation’s seven-member board of directors, told the Associated Press.

Mr. Lowther was quoted as saying that he has long objected to the district’s dress code, which allows students to dye their hair and pierce their noses, to the fact that the district allows an alliance of homosexual and heterosexual students to meet at the school, and to an “anti-timber bias” in the curriculum.

“We are not going to use timber dollars to send the professors’ kids, the physicians’ kids, the teachers’ kids to school, because they are the ones who are helping to shut down the timber industry, with environmental donations to Greenpeace,” Mr. Lowther, who did not return phone calls last week, told the Associated Press.

No Changes Planned

In the past, the district has cooperated with the foundation by allowing it access to student information that would help officials of the philanthropy administer the scholarships, Superintendent Kneisler said.

The district has no plans to change its policies as a result of the foundation’s objections, he added.

He said the dress code is clearly defined, and focuses on students’ safety to make sure that they don’t wear attire that is dangerous, shows intolerance to others, or supports the use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.

The gay-straight alliance that meets at the high school does so because students’ right to assemble is protected by law, the superintendent said. The school does not provide guidance for the club, he noted, only a meeting space.

The scholarships distributed by the foundation cover the full cost of tuition at nearby Oregon State University in Corvallis, but students can apply the $4,000 a year to any other community college or four- year institution, said Kelly Howard, the executive director of the Clemens Foundation. The Philomath-based philanthropy has a $30 million endowment.

Last year, the foundation administered 520 scholarships, Mr. Howard said. Although the vast majority—about 75 percent—of them went to students who had graduated from Philomath High, students in two other nearby districts are also eligible to receive the aid.

Mr. Howard noted that in addition to the scholarships, the foundation donates youth-centered grants to organizations not associated with the Philomath district. Last year, for example, it donated $275,000 to help establish the Philomath Youth Activities Club, which provides after-school services for young children.

“That really fit into our mission of helping local students,” Mr. Howard said.


Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding States Are Rolling in Surplus Cash, But It's Not All Good News for Schools
Some states are ramping up education spending, while others are leaving districts disappointed.
7 min read
Illustration of a man holding oversized money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
Education Funding Education Equity Expert: 'We've Gotta Give Up the Notion of Local Control'
David Sciarra, stepping down as head of the Education Law Center, says states have been let off the hook in the push for education equity.
8 min read
David Sciarra, executive director of the Newark-based Education Law Center, an advocacy group for children in low-income cities, looks at paperwork during a hearing in a school funding case before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, Wednesday, April 20, 2011.
David Sciarra, executive director of the Newark-based Education Law Center, an advocacy group for children in low-income cities, looks at paperwork during a hearing in a school funding case before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, Wednesday, April 20, 2011.
John O'Boyle/AP/Pool
Education Funding How School Funding Falls Short, by the Numbers
See how states measure up in an annual report on state school funding and equity.
1 min read
A white man looks up as he leans on a red ladder against a tall stack of coins
Education Funding Special Ed., Civics, and High-Need Schools Get a Boost in New Federal Spending Package
But many advocates say far more money is needed.
5 min read
Illustration of children walking across cliff with dollar bridge.
iStock / Getty Images Plus