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Kelvin Calkins finishes stint on state ed panel

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

January 3, 2007

The end of 2006 has brought with it the final work by Hood River resident Kelvin Calkins with a state education commission.

Calkins teaches fifth grade at May Street Elementary School. In February, he was appointed to the Senate Special Commission on Educational Excellence committee. He was one of only two teachers statewide involved in the 12-member group. Senate President Peter Courtney asked the group to work on education funding reform.

They held their final teleconference on Wednesday morning, wrapping up months of work that resulted in 10 recommended pieces of legislation.

The group of senators, business people, and community representatives worked in smaller subgroups. Calkins’ set dealt with accountability and how to improve it. Their Wednesday session modified ideas for a school improvement fund.

“It was last because we had a teleconference about a month ago but this bill wasn’t right so it was brought back to be fixed,” he said.

They looked at ways to allow districts to apply for grants to help student improvements. Their recommendations now go forward to the state Senate and the legislative process. Calkins said it was a valuable first-time experience for him.

“I learned about bringing legislation forward on an issue as complex as education,” he said. “There are so many facets and so many different views.”

He said because of his teaching background, he was able to weigh in on some suggestions that were not practical.

“One of the things that was helpful was when people would suggest ways that involved paperwork, I could say that the last thing schools wanted or needed was another form to fill out and send in,” he said.

As part of the process, the committee looked at adding language to the existing school improvement funds to allow more flexibility for their use. They also examined ways schools could improve through being more efficient.

Calkins said one example would be setting up a method where a district could voluntarily look at their purchases or transportation to see if any way existed to save money. Then the schools could put any of those savings toward a district’s overall budget.

He said he emphasized that with any of their legislative proposals, schools should retain local control as much as possible. Calkins said he did wish the group had addressed the broader issue of adequate funding for education.

“I think we knocked around the corners a bit but did not approach it,” Calkins said.

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