It is disturbing to see bills being considered that could potentially eliminate Education Service Districts. One should note the word Service is part of their name, for a reason. The Southern Oregon ESD now serves every school district in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath county and, in some cases, it provides special services to schools in Douglas and Lake counties.
By law, they provide four areas of service: Administrative and support services, School improvement services, Programs for children with special needs and technology support. They do this with 4.75 percent of the State School Fund (which include either property taxes or state income taxes). Their general fund budget is $17,569,804 for the 2010-11 school year. In addition, they are diligent in obtaining grants and contracts and have more than 100 special revenue funds, which account for 51 percent of their annual revenue.
It appears the governor and perhaps some of the legislative members do not fully comprehend the service an ESD should and can provide. There are laws that require special needs be educated. It shows a lack of understanding to think that individual school districts could afford to provide these services. The ESD is a regional provider, thus enables districts to conform to federal and state laws for the myriad of special needs. The ESD budget for special needs is $11,639,335 or 66 percent of its resource funding.
ESD provides many other services, from acting as a boundary board, to the legal requirements of homeschool registration, to teacher training, facilitating sessions with superintendents of all the districts, and on and on. There are literally several pages of items the SOESD does for the districts in the three counties.
It is a shame that the Willamette ESD, in the backyard of Salem legislature and governor, apparently has not preformed in accord with the state law. We believe the governor and the legislature should deal with that issue on individual basis.
Our southern Oregon school districts cannot afford to take on the tasks now performed by SOESD. Think about it, what would happen if there was no special ed for children? Think about it, the small districts, including District 9, do not have grant writers. Many programs and services now provided by ESD through grants would no longer be available. The damage that would be done to our southern Oregon educational institutions and our children is beyond our imagination.
We urge you to contact your legislative representatives and express your concern. Anyone wishing to see information about services provided by the SOESD is welcome to view the list at the Independent office.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent