School Funding

Oregon Senate Advances $ 9.3 Billion School Funding Plan


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A $ 9.3 billion plan to fund Oregon schools for the next two years is headed to the State House, after the Senate passed it in a bipartisan vote with little debate on Tuesday.

The budget for the public schools fund includes $ 300 million more than needed to maintain current K-12 services and programs, legislative analysts said.

This proposed level of funding sparked controversy earlier this month, when Governor Kate Brown sent a letter to legislative leaders urging them not to pump more money into the state funding system in which the districts receive distributions based on a formula to spend as they see fit. Education equity advocates have pushed the state to overhaul the funding system to target more investment on historically underserved students, including poor children and students of color.

Under Oregon’s current school funding formula, districts receive a lot more money for students with disabilities and a little more for those living in poverty or learning English as a second language. However, it offers the same for white and Asian students as it does for black, Latino, and native students, for whom schools have performed poorly in the past.

Lawmakers discussed the potential changes in private meetings this session, but chose not to make any changes to Senate Bill 5514, which the Senate approved on Tuesday.

In a speech to the Senate, Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, said other sources of state funding and unspecified proposals still under consideration this session “directly target educational disparities for young people. Blacks, Natives and Students of Color ”.

“Everyone, in my opinion, should aim for an expectation that all Oregon students are encouraged to enjoy learning and tap into the innate curiosity they were born with,” Frederick said.

Stand for Children Oregon executive director Toya Fick, a proponent of changing the funding formula for public schools, pointed to rising graduation rates among black and Latino students in recent years as proof that the investments targeted by the State to help these students pay off and should be. extended.

Others, including some lawmakers, argued that the state could not allocate more funds to help underserved students until it further bolsters the public school foundation fund.

School district officials and the state teachers union produced their own cost estimate for 2021-2023 and that figure was $ 600 million more than legislative analysts calculated, at $ 9.6 billion. This level of funding would allow districts, including some with declining enrollment, to avoid layoffs, supporters said. On Tuesday, a school board representative pledged to continue to demand an additional $ 300 million in the remaining month of the legislative session.

Republicans, who are a minority in the legislature, are pushing for schools to fully reopen for in-person classes in the fall and they support the higher level of the school fund as a way to achieve this.

The public fund for schools is the largest budget item in the state budget and its passage will give state school districts the certainty of the amounts of funding they can expect when finalizing their local budgets for school. ‘next year. Lawmakers have yet to decide how to provide $ 200 million from the school fund, after scrapping a plan to operate a reserve account for that amount in the face of criticism from the governor. With a billion dollar windfall revealed in the latest revenue forecast last week and $ 2.6 billion in the latest federal relief plan, there are plenty of options.

If the House passes the $ 9.3 billion budget, it will be at least the fourth consecutive year that the Oregon Legislature has approved a larger public school fund than legislative analysts have deemed necessary. to maintain current services and programs.

– Hillary Borrud; [email protected]; @hborrud

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