The Roseburg Education Association, the Oregon Education Association and the Oregon Legislature seem to be forgetting something when talking about school funding: the Public Employees Retirement System.

The state association is demanding an additional $2 billion for schools and supporting educators who are planning a May 8 strike. But until the Legislature fixes the PERS system and gets it on a long-term funding path, schools simply are going to have to do with less. Raising taxes and fees can only go so far because at some point the costs of all government have to be addressed.

Schools and educators absolutely need and deserve more money — research suggests state funding for schools has been about 21% to 38% below what districts need to be successful — but where are the additional funds going to come from?

Ever heard the old phrase, “You can’t squeeze any more money out of a rock?” Well, the taxpayers of Oregon are the rock and they’re being squeezed to death.

This Legislature simply will not make the tough decisions to fix PERS properly. Sure, you can pick at the edges, which is what Gov. Kate Brown’s latest proposal does, and kick the can down the road.

But we’re running out of road.

We understand that the courts have ruled that the state can’t change the contracts for workers already in the system, but we can certainly set up a more manageable system for new hires. That, at the very least, would be a start.

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Without offering any options as to how to fix PERS in legislation, I'd suggest perhaps we all get in the Professor Peabody's way-back machine to the 1990's and stop Bill Sizemore. Sizemore saw a healthy, productive, sustained retirement fund for public employees and decided that just couldn't happen. It was working, so it had to be "fixed" (source: By the time he was done, PERS struggled to insure many would get the 8% promised and agreed to by PERS as their option for a retirement fund.

I'm sure The News Review will keep us updated on just how PERS is affecting Oregon schools.

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