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Oregon offers $2 billion for schools as teachers plan walkout

Oregon legislative leaders laid out their plan to raise billions in dollars in revenue for schools, as teachers are readying themselves for a walkout to protest a chronic disinvestment in the state education system.

Posted: Apr 5, 2019 12:08 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon legislative leaders laid out their plan to raise billions in dollars in revenue for schools, as teachers are readying themselves for a walkout to protest a chronic disinvestment in the state education system.

Co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Student Success said Thursday they'll be able to raise approximately $2 billion in extra revenue each biennium to fund school initiatives focused on early education, increased class time and addressing mental and behavioral health issues in the classroom.

Educators praised the plan, but didn't say if it was enough to put an end to a planned teacher walkout in May. The Oregon Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, said they are monitoring the outcome of the legislature's revenue proposal.

"Oregon schools are in crisis," said John Larson, president of the Oregon Education Association in a statement. "If the legislature is able to fully fund their Student Success Act, we could make game-changing investments in all students, including students of color, low-income students, and students from other historically disadvantaged backgrounds."

The money will come from a new commercial activity tax, which takes a portion of a business' total revenue. Legislators are still working out the final details, but Rep. Greg Smith, a Republican from Heppner, said the tax is meant to be "spread very thinly across all businesses," with exemptions or smaller fines for small businesses.

The $2 billion in expected revenue will go to a newly created "Student Success Fund," which will fund additional educational programs and other school initiatives including smaller class sizes and more counseling services.

At least 20 percent of the Student Success Fund money will be invested into early education, including special education and the state's preschool programs. Another 30 percent will be earmarked for statewide initiatives, including universal free meals and bullying prevention measures.

The rest of the money - approximately $1 billion every two years - will go directly to schools to be used to improve educational outcomes in a state that suffers from one of the lowest graduation rates in the country.

To access that money, schools will have to submit proposals on how they will use the funds. The plans must address mental and behavioral health needs, and work to reduce educational barriers for students of color and other underserved students.

Educators have said that a lack of funding has forced schools to cut programs, expand class sizes and lay off staff. Schools have also reported not being able to afford enough counselors or other resources to address their students' complex mental health needs, a problem that has only gotten worse over the past decade.

Teachers have reported an increase in violent behavior from students, and a survey of 2,000 Oregon teachers found that 56 percent of educators have evacuated their classrooms at least once in the past year because a student was considered a threat to others.

"Education is almost the last thing that our schools are doing because they have kids who come in who are food insecure, who are housing insecure, who are dealing with untreated mental and behavioral issues," said Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, a Democrat from Portland and one of the co-chairs of the student success committee. "Schools have become the de facto provider for all these services, yet we aren't funding them."

The state will monitor how effectively schools are using the money and whether districts are meeting their performance goals. Struggling schools will be given more resources and technical assistance to boost student success.

"We're very supportive of this plan," said Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Board Association. "We have underfunded our education system for 30 years and this is a great attempt at trying to address that."

Gov. Kate Brown expressed disappointment that the plan didn't include extra money for higher education, including community colleges and universities. She told reporters that higher education is essential for the state's plan to provide quality education from "cradle to career."

Co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Student Success said they support making higher education more affordable, but the issue is out of their purview.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 42436

Reported Deaths: 655
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah9228160
Marion5858108
Washington579076
Umatilla335444
Clackamas313965
Lane239227
Malheur191738
Jackson16846
Deschutes113213
Yamhill99415
Linn81015
Polk65415
Jefferson6049
Morrow5456
Lincoln51713
Union4672
Benton4426
Klamath4113
Douglas3506
Wasco34715
Hood River2771
Josephine2673
Columbia2661
Coos2460
Clatsop2430
Baker1203
Crook1092
Tillamook700
Curry571
Wallowa442
Lake370
Harney230
Sherman190
Gilliam110
Grant110
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

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Confirmed Cases: 910438

Reported Deaths: 17386
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3006147000
Riverside667321295
San Bernardino627741072
Orange587251447
San Diego54941870
Kern33881416
Fresno30858436
Sacramento25445484
Santa Clara24313388
Alameda23391461
San Joaquin21630489
Contra Costa18694242
Stanislaus17686397
Tulare17495286
Ventura14300164
Imperial12882336
San Francisco12152140
Monterey1139991
San Mateo11149159
Santa Barbara9814120
Merced9465155
Sonoma9402136
Kings824683
Solano738476
Marin7089128
Madera502074
Placer417857
San Luis Obispo414132
Yolo320759
Butte308752
Santa Cruz280225
Napa196215
Shasta188930
Sutter183712
San Benito144215
El Dorado13284
Yuba129310
Mendocino112921
Tehama8808
Lassen7661
Lake69515
Glenn6573
Nevada6168
Humboldt56710
Colusa5506
Calaveras34218
Amador33016
Tuolumne2714
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1930
Mono1802
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