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Report: Oregon Gets 'F' for School Spending

Oregon has the sixth-largest class sizes in the country, according to the National Education Association. (Aldona_P/Twenty20)
Oregon has the sixth-largest class sizes in the country, according to the National Education Association. (Aldona_P/Twenty20)
June 18, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon gets a failing grade for how much it spends on public schools, according to a new report. In its analysis, Education Week gave Oregon an "F" for spending. And for overall education financing, the state did only slightly better, earning a “C-.”

Underfunding has been a persistent issue in Oregon schools. It's led to some of the largest class sizes in the nation. According to the National Education Association, the state had the sixth-largest class sizes in the nation in 2017.

John Larson, president of the Oregon Education Association, said even the best teachers struggle when class sizes are too big.

"When you start talking about 45 students in a classroom, even the best instructor becomes more of a crowd-management type of a person than they do an instructor,” Larson said. “It's just not feasible for that person to be expected to deliver quality instruction with that many bodies in a classroom."

Although the graduation rate ticked up to nearly 77 percent last year, Oregon still has one of the lowest rates in the country. Larson said schools don't have the funding to give attention to students who drop out of school.

The lack of funding has also led to cuts in other staff, such as counselors.

Larson said Oregon is about $2 billion short of the national average for education funding. He said state legislators have to make funding a priority during their next session.

"We're going to be spending a lot of our time at their doors talking to them about why they need to fund our schools at an appropriate level,” he said. “We're at a point right now where we simply cannot do more with less anymore. It's got to come from somewhere."

Despite its lack of spending, Education Week gave Oregon a "B+“ for equitable funding. Larson said that's because of a voter-passed measure mandating money be distributed by the state for each pupil based on need.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR