$7.255 billion K-12 budget passes in Oregon House

On March 31, the Oregon House of Representatives passed the K-12 budget — $7.255 billion. Many in the local education community say this number is inadequate to cover the cost of full-day kindergarten and continue an upward trajectory of funding — last week, Lane County superintendents wrote a letter to state legislators and asked for increased funding.

EW spoke with Bethel School District Superintendent Colt Gill earlier this year, when the Joint Ways and Means Committee proposed a budget of $7.235 billion. Gill said that because Oregon K-12 schools are implementing full-day kindergarten this year, this number simply doesn’t work (see full interview here):

We need that $7.235 billion just to cover what we’re doing right now plus annual roll-up costs, such as cost-of-living increases for staff members. All those costs go up, and the $7.235 billion pretty much covers that, or it covers full-day kindergarten, but not both. So where we need them to move the budget to is $7.5 billion, which would be even, meaning that what we’re doing this year, we could continue to do next year plus the full-day kindergarten.

So that seems like, “Oh, OK, that’s good.” But where we’re at now is not really that great. Right now we’re 49th in graduation rates across the country. The only place that’s underperforming Oregon is the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. And we’re 49th in class size. Just to get to average in class size, we’d have to have six fewer kids per class …

The number that we’re all asking for and hoping for is $7.875 billion, and that doesn’t get us to the national average. But, if you increase by that amount every two years when the Legislature meets, then in 10 years, we’ll be at the national average. We’d like to say in Oregon that we’re better than average, but right now we’re just struggling to climb the ladder and get up there.

Democrats of the House say that $7.255 billion can provide stable funding for Oregon school districts while funding full-day kindergarten and paying for lunch for students from low-income families.

From a House Majority Leader press release:

“Let’s be clear—we all want to do more to invest in our schools. I will fight until the day we sine die to get every cent possible into our classrooms, ” said Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D-West Eugene & Junction City). “But let’s also be clear that adding more funds to K-12 schools without new revenue will require more cuts to critical programs like mental health care, public safety, and services for low-income seniors.”

“I’m heartened to hear bipartisan support for increasing funds to K-12 schools,” Hoyle added. “I’m calling on our colleagues across the aisle to stay true to their word and join us in a conversation about how we find the revenue we need in order to make a truly game-changing investment in our schools.”

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