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.”

Story continues below

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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.


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Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is the education reporter for the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. Natalie has previously worked for organizations and publications such as Direct Relief International, Waging Non-Violence, and Amnesty International USA. She has had stories published with USA Today, Associated Press and Ozy, among others. Natalie earned her B.A. in Politics and French and Francophone Studies (FFS) from Willamette University. During her studies, she wrote a Politics thesis titled, "No One is Dying: How and Why the U.S. Federal Government Avoids Executing Prisoners on Federal Death Row" and an FFS thesis, in French, on cannibalism in the 16th and 17th centuries. Natalie is a journalist, performer, traveler, fiction writer and more. She is working to publish her dystopian novella, "Choice," which follows a man during 24 hours in solitary confinement for allegedly committing murder. For more information on Natalie visit www.about.me/natalie_pate, like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist, or follow Natalie on Twitter (@Nataliempate) or Tumblr (Nataliempate blog "In the Shoes of a Journalist"). Her reporting with the Statesman Journal can also be found at www.StatesmanJournal.com.

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