Just as public schools in Washington state needed a hefty infusion of cash in recent years to improve learning, so too do school in Oregon. This week lawmakers came through.
Bipartisan support resulted in approval in the Oregon Legislature of legislation to add $1 billion a year to state school funding. Educators and others have long contended this money was needed to counteract years of cuts that have forced schools to slash employees and programs such as art, music and physical education,
“Many of us in Oregon have spent our entire adult lives waiting for the day we would fix our broken school funding model,” Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, in a statement. “That day is now on the horizon.”
This is seen as extremely significant and important. Earlier this months about 25,000 teachers, students and supporters rallied and marched through downtown Portland as part of the statewide teacher walkout demanding increased funding for Oregon schools. Rallies were also held in Eugene, Medford, Bend, Klamath Falls and at the state Capitol in Salem, The Oregonian reported.
“Teachers don’t step out of the classroom lightly,” said Keri Pilgrim Ricker, who teaches high school in Eugene. “We’re doing it for an honorable purpose.” Ricker and about 3,000 other teachers marched through Salem before flooding the Capitol rotunda, according to The Oregonian.
The deal that allowed this funding did not come together easily in the Legislature as Republicans in the Democrat-controlled Legislature did some old-fashioned political horse trading on other issues before agreeing to the tax that will raise the $1 billion a year. The tax is 0.057 percent on gross receipts for businesses with $1 million or more in sales.
Taxes, even those imposed on businesses, ultimately trickle down to consumers. This is why any tax hike has to be supported by a clear need.
That seems to be the case here.
Locally, the added money was embraced by school superintendents.
“This is outstanding news for Oregon schools,” said Athena-Weston School District Superintendent Laure Quaresma.
She said this will give her district greater flexibility with operating funding, and will allow for an investment in early learning for all children. The extra money will also allow her district to expand career and technology opportunities, plus add resources for unfunded mandates, Quaresma told Union-Bulletin reporter Sheila Hagar.
The Legislature did the right thing in understanding the importance of boosting school funding and doing what’s necessary — reaching across party lines — to make that happen.
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