A $7.255 billion K-12 education budget was recently passed by the Oregon House of Representatives, although Republicans opposed the budget for the most part, contending that it should be larger.
According to Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, the budget is a “floor” and that more provisions are contained within the bill to allow for more money to be added at a later date if the revenue forecast in May shows more money that what has been predicted.
Democrats say the 9% increase will allow a full-day kindergarten program for all students to take place in most districts across the state as well as giving additional support to high-needs students and English language learners. In addition, every low-income student will be ensured a school lunch to eat. They added that while it is not the best budget, it is all they can do without raising additional revenue.
Rep. Peter Buckley said the education budget received an additional $1 billion for the 2013-15 biennium after communities across Oregon asked for stability.
“In the budget before you today, there are great things in this budget. We’re funding full-day kindergarten,” he said, “but I know we are still not getting our schools to where we need to get to. This is still not what I came here for. I did not come here to short-change, to not get our kids what they need. The budget we have today is the best we can do under the resources we have.”
Rep. John Davis was one who opposed the bill, saying the additional funding would never be enough so long as there is no commitment made to fund education.
“We’ve had increases the last three biennium,” Davis said. “When will it ever be enough, colleagues, to make that commitment? If we’re not going to make this commitment now, when will we make it?”
Meanwhile, a statement about the passing of the budget was issued by the Oregon House Republican Office, who said the budget does not keep up with rising costs and will therefore require districts to cut their budgets.
“This inadequate K-12 education budget leaves school districts across the state – both large and small – with serious consequences, including overcrowded class sizes of 40+ students, layoffs of teachers, outdated curricula, textbooks and other materials and dilapidated facilities and resources.”
Education currently makes up about half of the state general fund and lottery revenue, which combines for the bulk of funding for Oregon school districts.