Earlier this week, the Ways and Means committee co-chairs released a state budget proposal for 2017-2019. The accompanying statement declared the document a “starting point” from which the committee can begin their budget planning. If these proposed cuts become a reality, they will significantly harm the health, safety, and education of Oregon’s children.
The budget framework proposes deep cuts to programs that give kids a strong start in life. Funding for K-12 education and the Oregon Department of Human Services, both already under strain, would each be slashed by nearly $300 million below current service levels. Early learning programs, Farm-to-School funding, the Babies First! home visiting program, and in-home supports for abused children would be completely eliminated. Early learning HUBs, the Healthy Families and Preschool Promise programs, self-sufficiency supports for low-income families, and the Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families program would receive less funding.
Reducing self-sufficiency supports and eliminating home visiting programs mean fewer struggling families would receive the help they need. Decreased funding for K-12 education risks larger class sizes and lower graduation rates for Oregon students. Cuts to supports for foster families would result in 487 children coming into foster care, staying longer periods of time, or returning to the attention of Child Welfare.
This is not the future we want for children and families in our state.
We all want every child in Oregon to thrive. The co-chairs’ budget is a “starting point,” and it’s up to us to make sure it is just that — a starting point for a deeper conversation about the revenue solutions needed to help Oregon kids reach their full potential. Contact your representatives and tell them that kids can’t afford to lose the programs currently on the chopping block. It’s time for increased investments in Oregon’s children and families, not cuts.