If you have a child in Oregon’s public K-12 system, it’s not news that the last few years have been challenging for our schools. Facing the worst national economic crisis since the Great Depression, many schools were forced to respond by laying off teachers and staff, increasing class sizes, shortening school days, and cutting extracurricular activities.
In the face of these challenges, we witnessed teachers, administrators, support staff, school boards, and advocates work incredibly hard to minimize the impact on our kids. Their daily commitment kept us on the right path as the economy rebounded and state revenue improved.
Now, they have a little more help.
On Tuesday, March 31 the Oregon House approved House Bill 5017, which provides $7.255 billion in state funding for K-12 education in Oregon for the 2015-17 biennium. (For an in-depth data analysis of school funding, make sure to check out the blog post “How much is $7 billion?” on the CFFO Kids Count Center.)
Included in the funding are important investments in pro-kid programs like expansion of the free lunch program and, for the first time in Oregon’s history, funding for all day kindergarten. Passage of the funding package this early in the legislative session sets a minimum baseline of funding so that administrators and school boards know how much money they have to work with as they budget for the next school year.
The total amount of K-12 funding is $600 million more than the previous 2013-2015 K-12 education budget, however, the increase still doesn’t keep up with demand. The average funding per student is considerably lower than it was 25 years ago — meaning that schools have to do more with less.
So it’s a step in the right direction. But is it enough?
Many education advocates, including Children First for Oregon, hope that additional funding will become available after the May revenue forecast. Beyond that, it’s crucial that lawmakers look for new revenue sources so that Oregon’s kids aren’t pitted against other important vital programs for seniors, children, the developmentally disabled, higher education, and public safety.