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Bradbury calls for full funding of Oregon's public schools.

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

Former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, now a gubernatorial candidate, used a City Club of Eugene appearance Friday to spell out how he'd propose "full funding" of Oregon's beleaguered public school system.

And he told the mostly gray- and white-haired crowd that he was not about to dodge the hard details as, he said, they've undoubtedly witnessed other candidates for public office do in the past.

"As your next governor, I will confront the elephant," he said, referring to the $2 billion gap between how much Oregon currently spends on K-12 education and how much a state panel of experts believes a high-quality system would cost.

With the caveat that it was only a partial list, Bradbury outlined a series of options he said would generate enough revenue to fulfill the promise of the so-called Quality Education Model without causing anyone undue hardship.

Most of the options target businesses, which he said have long enjoyed a financially friendly climate in Oregon.

"It is a fallacy that we have a high corporate tax rate," said Bradbury, who supports a $733 million proposal package - slated for the January ballot - that raises taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.

Bradbury proposes curtailing a variety of tax "credits, exemptions, depreciations and breaks" he said total $30 billion every two years. As an example, he cited a 100-year-old tax break for corporations with income from foreign- controlled companies.

He also suggested a gross-receipts tax on business activity modeled after one in Washington state, which he said could generate $300 million for schools at a rate of just one-tenth of one percent.

Finally, he proposed ramping up enforcement on "tax cheats," noting that one watchdog group has estimated that as much as $1 billion goes uncollected each year.

Naysayers who insist that fully funding schools can't be done, he said, "are wrong. It just takes leadership."

Bradbury, 60, formally announced his bid for the governor's office on Sept. 17, two weeks after former governor John Kitzhaber announced that he would seek an unprecedented third term.

A third Democratic contender, Hewlett-Packard executive Steve Shields of Corvallis, has since joined the race.

On the Republican side, former state legislator John Lim of Portland and former high-tech executive Allen Alley of Lake Oswego have announced for the race.

Former Portland Trail Blazer Chris Dudley said Friday that he intends to decide soon about whether to enter the contest as a Republican candidate.

Bradbury, of Salem, has spent 30 years in Oregon politics, including 14 years as a legislator representing the south coast.

As governor, Kitzhaber appointed Bradbury secretary of state in 1999; Bradbury went on to win election to the office twice.

Since leaving office early this year, he has been traveling the state talking about climate change, making more than 200 presentations based on former Vice President Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

Bradbury has made education funding a centerpiece of his campaign, as well as strengthening the economy. The two go hand in hand, he said Friday.

"We cannot grow our economy, help Oregon businesses grow and put people back to work if we do not have a quality and innovative public education system that has an adequate and stable source of funding," he said.

Bradbury said he views the education system as a continuum, beginning with preschool and ending with second-career coursework. The "silo" approach hasn't served Oregon well, he said, and has shifted far too much of the cost burden to operate community colleges and the university system to students through higher tuition and fees.

"Public education in this state is increasingly no longer public, and our education system increasingly no longer meets the needs of the 21st century," he said.

Bradbury announced two other education initiatives he would push as governor: a statewide mentoring program for new teachers and principals, which he described as a small investment that would keep more teachers from leaving the profession and save districts the cost of hiring and training new teachers; and an "Innovation in Education" fund.

He proposed redirecting some lottery proceeds into the fund, which would be modeled after the Obama Administration's Race to the Top program. Competitive grants would go to schools and districts that are "pushing the boundaries of conventional thought and pushing all stakeholders past their traditional comfort zones."

Mary Leighton, executive director at Eugene's Network Charter School, asked Bradbury whether it makes sense to prioritize "innovation" when schools lack funding even to fully implement programs and ideas they already have.

"You're absolutely right that providing adequate funding might solve a whole lot of problems," he said.
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Title Annotation:Elections; The Democratic candidate for governor has a list of proposals, many of which aim at business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 31, 2009
Words:768
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