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Irony in the Capitol...again
Is $9.3 Billion (with a B) enough for schools?

Another House floor session began with an attempt by House Republicans to bring a bill out of committee to an immediate vote on the floor. Rep. Breese-Iverson (R- Prineville) called for immediate consideration of HB 3399. It requires all Public Schools to be back to 5 day a week, face-to-face learning in the fall. On a party line the vote, the House Democrats unanimously disagreed and voted the motion down. It would give school districts the certainty they need to budget and plan for bringing all student back full-time in the fall. In a previous article, “Back to school in the fall...maybe”, HB 3399 was discussed in detail.

A similar attempt was made by the Senate Republicans late last month when they requested immediate consideration of the Senate version of HB 3399. Senator Anderson (R-Lincoln City) introduced the legislation reported on earlier in “Senate Republicans Support Teachers Union Effort to Fully Reopen Schools”. However, it was also voted down on a party line vote by the Democrats. Senate Republican Leader Girod (R-Lyons) commented on the bill saying,

“Republicans have been beating this drum for months. Now with the Democrat’s union on board, there is no excuse for them to sit back and allow the Governor to dictate if our kids will get a proper education next year. We need to give kids and parents assurance that they will return to the classroom.”

Today on the floor, after the Democrats denied the motion to vote on reopening schools to full-time, face-to-face learning in the fall they, ironically, took up debate on the State School Fund budget.

The House Republicans immediately made a motion to send the school budget back to committee to increase the amount from $9.3B to $9.6B before it passed. During the debate, House Republican Leader Drazen (R-Canby) stated, “We should not be moving forward with a budget that will harm our kids’ education in the long run. Schools tell us that $9.6 Billion is needed to avoid cuts next year, and we must believe them. Our state has more money than ever, and we’re committed to giving families the choice of in-person learning next fall. This is the wrong time to move forward with a ‘cuts’ budget. Our kids deserve better.”

The $9.6B came from a request by the Oregon School Employees Association, Oregon Education Association, and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators. They testified earlier to the budget committee regarding the $9.6B and specifically to the need to invest and protect the needs of the students coming out of an unprecedented year of lost learning. They also spoke to the various funding for which they are restricted in use. Iton Udosenata, COSA President stated in written testimony that,

“Our funding is not interchangeable. The Student Investment Account is targeted toward equitable investments to better serve our students and their communities. It is meant to supplement the operational funding of school districts in the State School Fund. Federal funds (CARES ACT funding) are intended to provide schools the resources to safely reopen and address the added costs of operating our schools and supporting our students for the next three-plus years.

The State School Fund is still the primary source of funding for our school districts. A budget that does not meet our financial needs means we take a huge step backward in our ability to serve students.”

However, House Democrats again, unanimously opposed the motion.

They then moved on to debating the $9.3B budget proposal. Several Democrat House members spoke against the request for the additional $300M. They reminded the Republicans that there are other funding streams being fed into school budgets that will help schools meet the needs of “all students”.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

However, most of that additional funding they mentioned is the funding that COSA spoke about in committee. The carrier of the bill, Rep. McLain (D - Hillsboro) summed up many of her Democratic colleagues’ comments in her closing remarks saying,

“This budget is a good solid investment and foundation for our schools in Oregon but it’s only one of the sources of funding that we are sending out to our schools. Please do not forget the Student Success Act, please do not forget that we are putting investments into our BIPOC diversity and inclusion programs. There will be millions more dollars going into those programs focused on development of inclusion and diversity to support all students”.

However, the reality is that the only current funding source that provides equal funding for all students is the State School Fund, and it is also the primary source of funding. The rest is volatile, limited duration, or grant based and not available to every school district.

The bill finally passed on a party line vote with the Supermajority Democrats once again voting to go against the Republicans, but this time they also voted against the wishes of the Teachers and School Administrators.


--Terese Humboldt

Post Date: 2021-06-04 10:44:57Last Update: 2021-06-04 11:49:47



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