Oregon House narrowly passes K-12 public schools budget


Oregon House narrowly passes K-12 public schools budget

Published 12:55 p.m. PT June 27, 2017 | Updated 9:01 p.m. PT June 27, 2017

Oregon’s public schools budget was narrowly passed Tuesday with many state representatives saying it wasn’t enough money.

The K-12 budget passed on the House floor, with 31 to 28 voting to allocate $7.6 billion in general fund money to the State School Fund for the 2017-2019 biennium. The Senate passed the bill on June 8 with a 25 to 5 vote in favor.

With Lottery funds, the total K-12 education budget comes to $8.2 billion, an 11 percent increase from the last two-year budget.

The budget will now need to be signed by Governor Kate Brown.

Some legislators and education advocates are not happy with the budget.

“It’s not all we can and must do,” said Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River. “We are setting ourselves up for what I would call an absolutely cataclysmic budget system two years from now.

“We are setting our kids up for failure.”

During the House debate, Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, urged her colleagues to vote “yes” on the bill, though she, too, felt the budget was incomplete. “We’ve put together one inadequate education budget after the other,” she said.

Smith Warner said some districts will be able to maintain current service levels with this budget, while other will have to make cuts or tap into their reserves.

She said she hopes this is a “wake-up call” for legislators. She urged representatives to pass the budget, but then to get back to work to craft a better budget in two years.

Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, described the budget as a missed opportunity.

“Our elected leaders did not address runaway costs,” he said. “They did not act to reform our revenue system.

“As a result … our students will pay the price,” Green said. “And what those young people are missing is instructional time, school days and ultimately the opportunity for a better future.”

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Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, said the budget will mean deep cuts for some districts, meaning larger class sizes, fewer teachers, nurses and counselors, and less instructional time.

Hernandez said limited budgets perpetuate Oregon’s low graduation rate and disproportionately affect students of color, students with disabilities and students living in poverty.

“The status quo is insufficient for Oregon families,” he said. “I will not vote for a budget that maintains our mediocrity, or as we call it, current service level.”

Contact Natalie at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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