Dear House District 50 and beyond,
I want to thank everyone that has contacted me regarding the K-12 education budget for the 2015-2017 biennium. I have heard from school administrators, district employees, teachers, parents, students and other concerned community members.
Most important, I know the $7.255 billion for K-12 is not enough. I understand the impact of inadequate school funding as a legislator, school board member and as a parent.
On March 23rd, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President announced they were pushing forward with the $7.255 billion K-12 budget. It came to the House on March 31st. The purpose of approving this budget early is to protect it from potential cuts after the next revenue forecast in May. I voted yes to push forward to secure the highest level of K-12 funding now, without putting our public safety and human services budgets in peril, in case the May forecast does not provide additional revenue. This budget provides a necessary floor, and promises that the K-12 funding will not dip lower, something we could not promise without passing this bill.
In this video, Rep. Peter Buckley, the Co-Chair of the legislature’s budget-writing committee, talks about the budget, what it pays for, and how we can fight for more funding for our schools. You can click HERE to watch.
Through more is needed, the proposed budget includes a lot of funding additions. These increases and improvements include:
- The proposed budget includes a lot of components and funding additions, though not the funding additions I know would be ideal. These increases and improvements include:
- $7.255 billion is $305 million more than what former Governor Kitzhaber proposed, and $600 million more than the 2013-2015 K-12 education budget
- Funding for full-day kindergarten—for the first time all school districts in Oregon will have full day kindergarten. This is big deal for working families and early education.
- An additional $12.5 million to improve outcomes for English Language Learning students
- A $2.5 million increase to ensure that every student who qualifies for reduced price lunches qualifies for free lunches
- $17 million more for districts to help support students with disabilities
Included in the $7.255 budget is a protective trigger that will increase school funding if there is more money available after the May revenue forecast—40% of any new revenue will go to the State School Fund.
In addition to the 40% trigger, I am also joining several colleagues to discuss what we can do this session to create more revenue in our state. Revenue reform is the only way to have a significant impact on the current funding situation. It is the only solution to the inevitable budget crunches we will face in the future if we continue to patch together a state budget through a system that never allows us to fully prioritize education.
There has been a lot of rhetoric in the Capitol over the past few days about needing to make tough choices when it comes to our budget. Voting to support a base budget of $7.255 billion for K-12 education was a tough choice, but I think we have avoided even tougher choices down the road by passing this budget early and protecting K-12 funding in event that the next forecast does not supply more revenue.
Education has been and will remain a priority of mine and that is why I voted to protect K-12 funding with a base budget of $7.255 billion. Moving the K-12 budget now was a first step, not a final step.