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Ore. School Boards Push for Increased Education Funding

More than 70 educators were at a Redmond School Board meeting when members passed a resolution urging more education funding. (Redmond Education Association)
More than 70 educators were at a Redmond School Board meeting when members passed a resolution urging more education funding. (Redmond Education Association)
February 15, 2019

SALEM, Ore. – School boards across Oregon are urging lawmakers to invest more in education. From Hermiston to Klamath Falls to Tillamook, at least 28 boards have passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to make big increases in funding.

State funding for schools is about 9 percent below the national average, and Oregon's graduation rate is 78 percent – second-worst in the nation. Carrie Douglass, vice-chair of the Bend-LaPine School Board, says the lack of adequate funds stretches schools thin, with teachers sometimes buying their own supplies or doing tasks outside of their already demanding jobs.

"We are asking them to be teachers and counselors, and coaches and mental health counselors, and friends and mentors, and they just don't have the funding to do all of those things and to do them well,” says Douglass.

The Joint Committee on Student Success released a report last month laying out education priorities and fixes that would cost an estimated $3 billion. Governor Kate Brown also outlined a $2 billion boost in funding.

The state's public pension program is likely on the agenda as well, but Douglass hopes that conversation doesn't derail the push for education funding at the Capitol.

Tim Carpenter, chair of the Redmond School Board, says his district also wants to see the state do more to back education. He says growing class sizes are making teachers' jobs harder.

"Classroom management, it's getting more difficult every year for these teachers as we put more kids in the class, more behavioral issues,” says Carpenter. “So, they don't have – whether it's increased counseling staff or mental health – services to take care of these kids, so it all comes back to the teachers."

Andrea Valderrama, vice-chair of the David Douglas School Board in east Portland, says she wants to see more funding to close the gap in graduation rates for communities of color, as well as helping teachers.

While more money has been hard to come by in previous sessions, Valderrama is hopeful this year. She says lawmakers have visited schools across the state and are making specific proposals on where revenue should go.

"That does mean that, for the first time, we can actually be part of a solution here, whereas before we kind of felt like it somewhat was falling on deaf ears," says Valderrama.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR