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.

Cases: 394569

Reported Deaths: 5243
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah60720847
Washington42359405
Marion40153516
Clackamas33040387
Lane30428361
Jackson25105363
Deschutes23795189
Umatilla15144184
Linn14859183
Douglas13523293
Josephine10278247
Yamhill9840143
Klamath9112149
Polk8325102
Benton615338
Malheur593292
Coos5768109
Columbia438056
Jefferson424366
Lincoln365852
Crook343057
Union340756
Wasco318646
Clatsop263635
Baker221833
Tillamook218046
Hood River216537
Morrow197825
Curry193939
Harney121333
Grant109116
Lake105617
Wallowa76313
Sherman1933
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5109348

Reported Deaths: 74802
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles153635127246
San Diego4091824350
Riverside3892365381
San Bernardino3762805983
Orange3352965756
Sacramento1690952452
Kern1582701828
Fresno1574692270
Santa Clara1528571928
Alameda1256281512
San Joaquin1080791835
Ventura1043091192
Contra Costa1042181056
Stanislaus919641429
Tulare867391100
San Francisco57141674
San Mateo56585631
Monterey52842626
Solano47828360
Santa Barbara47523555
Merced45309671
Sonoma43349414
Placer42458473
Imperial38932776
Kings35370367
San Luis Obispo31667360
Madera26388311
Shasta26221461
Butte25608318
Santa Cruz22402224
Yolo21722261
Marin18587249
El Dorado18448168
Sutter14646186
Napa13446106
Yuba1079891
Tehama10316131
Humboldt10294119
Nevada10112105
Mendocino864999
Lassen797656
San Benito787979
Tuolumne778491
Lake7057113
Amador580067
Siskiyou479657
Glenn458536
Calaveras445788
Del Norte377942
Colusa328321
Inyo257346
Plumas19577
Mono19034
Mariposa162218
Trinity100717
Modoc7936
Sierra2190
Unassigned1560
Alpine1080
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