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Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Resigns, Leaving His K-12 Blueprint Stranded

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his resignation on Feb. 13 amid a growing scandal and FBI investigation that centers on his fiancée's consulting work. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, was re-elected last year, but is stepping down just over a month into his fourth term in office. The governor faced increasing pressure to resign in recent days over ethics allegations involving his fiancée Cylvia Hayes' work as an environmental consultant to companies seeking to influence state government, while also serving as the governor's energy-policy adviser. 

So what does Kitzhaber's departure mean for Oregon public schools? Last November, right after his re-election, I highlighted Kitzhaber's ambitious plan to focus hundreds of millions of additional state dollars on early-literacy programs, early child care, and support for English-language learners. The governor acknowledged that it would be unlikely that his entire blueprint for the upcoming two-year budget would be adopted by the legislature, but went out of his way to attach numbers to his proposals, such as the 1,672 additional children every year the governor said would be made "kindergarten-ready" through his early-literacy plans.

Without the governor's support, this blueprint faces a very uncertain future.

One other note: Kitzhaber had recently ordered a review of the impact of Smarter Balanced tests on Oregon school ratings, after the Oregon Education Association complained that the new common-core-aligned tests shouldn't affect school accountability in 2014-15. And the state's chief education officer, Nancy Golden, has also expressed support for such a one-year accountability freeze.

Reid Wilson of the Washington Post already has the run-down of Kitzhaber's replacement, current Secretary of State Kate Brown. Wilson says that Brown, a Democrat, "enjoyed close relationships with powerful labor unions" during her rise to power. She also angered unions by drumming up votes in the legislature to support a proposal to cut public-employee pensions ... but then she opposed those cuts herself, Wilson reports.

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