It’s not great, but it could have been worse. That’s the latest from the Eugene Education Association (EEA) regarding the education budget of $6.75 billion in school funding for the state of Oregon in the now-ended legislative session. For the 4J School District, which already suffers under the strain of financial woe, it means assessing what changes are in store for the upcoming school year.
“We’re happy that the education budget ended significantly higher than the original budget, but unfortunately, 4J was not one of the districts that was able to escape the budget cuts,” says Tad Shannon, president of the EEA.
After the Eugene School Board passed its 2013-2014 school budget, with $374 million allotted total and $145 million for the general fund, Shannon says that the school district must take a total of nine furlough days this year, four more than last year. This also means a modest amount of layoffs, in addition to not filling positions left by those who retire.
Some positive changes are also coming for 4J. In the June 13 agreement between the EEA and 4J, Shannon says that the negotiations between the district and the teacher’s union yielded greater preparation time for grade school teachers by bringing in part-time specialists to teach music and PE in 30-minute slots two times a week. With the removal of music and PE programs, Shannon says that “teachers were being killed by the workload, and losing specialists has been a huge problem. They didn’t have any real time to plan during the day, so part of our settlement guarantees them more time during the week by expanding those positions.”
Another positive from the Legislature is HB 2644, passed on July 1 and meant to force more accurate reporting of class size. In the past, Shannon says, calculations of staff size included all certified staff, whether or not they actually taught classes, skewing the reported student-to-teacher ratio. The bill will require more specific information that includes the number of teachers assigned to students. “Before there’s any meaningful change, people need to understand how far we have fallen,” Shannon says. “We can’t do that if we aren’t getting accurate information.”