Decades of funding erosion, due both to declines in corporate tax share and to property tax limitations, have crippled Oregon’s fine public education system by causing class sizes to swell, programs to be dropped, support staffing to be minimized, libraries to close, extra-curricular activities to be limited or fee-based, and students to be left with fewer opportunities and less assistance to reach their potentials. Against this revenue backdrop have been changes to expectations primarily driven by corporate-based education reform pressures. Add to this landscape the educational challenges yielded by a greater level of income inequality that causes more of our students to live in poverty. In other words, schools are expected to do much more with much less for students with far greater needs than our budgets are able to accommodate.
With the opportunity of new revenue, however, comes the need to think carefully about how to make best use of the opportunities of an optimal budget. We must strengthen public education by setting priorities for the use of new monies. OEA has long advocated for a four-step plan to budget rationally:
- First, restore the programs and services to our students that have been cut over the years of austerity and fiscal crisis. An example of this is restoration of librarian educators in all schools that have lost theirs.
- Second, phase in new investments based on the Quality Education Commission’s best-practices model*. Examples of this are universal full-day Kindergarten and educationally sound (reduced) class sizes.
- Third, ensure that all previously enacted mandates, about to come on line, are fully funded. An example of this is a greater number of weekly minutes of physical education classes in Oregon’s elementary schools.
- Fourth, consider new programs compatible with the education policy roadmap established by the QEM and by our expert educators. Examples of these include expanded career-technical education, summer learning opportunities, and more trauma care and nursing services.
K-12 School Funding
There are two ways to look at the biennial budget: “All Funds” and “General Fund/Lottery” only. The latter is more accurate because it is the budget that the Ways and Means Committee makes major policy decisions about, and the all funds includes federal pass-throughs and local revenues. Most often, we talk about the GF/L budget as the “state budget”. Because all K-12 funding, except for federal grants, comes through state funds, the K-12 totals below are the same for both perspectives, but the percentages change, given that $7.37 billion is a larger portion of $18 billion than of $68 billion, for instance.
ALL FUNDS BUDGET:
Total - $68.983 Billion
All Education - $12.565 Billion (18.2%)
K-12 Share - $7.376 Billion (10.7%)
Other Ed - $5.189 Billion (7.5%)
STATE BUDGET ONLY:
Total - $18.899 Billion
All Education - $9.765 Billion (51.7%)
K-12 Share - $7.373 Billion (39.0%)
Other Education - $2.392 Billion (12.7%)
The Quality Educaiton Model (QEM) best practices feature the following key investments:
- Full-day Kindergarten
- Smaller class sizes (20-24)
- Extra staffing supports (librarians, counselors, etc.)
- Equity for diverse student groups (ELL, special education, low SES)
- Data/Formative Assessment
- Time on task (targeted help)
- Professional Development
- Staff planning/collaboration
- Rich/varied enrichment
- Extracurricular activities
- Personalized education plans
- 1:250 counselor/student ratios