Our public spending is a reflection of our priorities and education must be at the top of the list, always. But beyond dollar amounts, we must consider how those funds are spent.
So, how is Oregon’s education budget spent?
Just recently Oregon’s state budget writers released their framework for how resources will be rebalanced to fit our new economic reality. We’re pleased to see that education investments that support and prioritize our historically and currently underserved communities. You can find a breakdown of the rebalanced budget here.
Gov. Brown has now called for a special legislative session on August 10th so that lawmakers can vote on changes to our budget. We’ll be advocating for a continued focus on targeted policies and investments that center the needs of our most vulnerable. In order to plan where we’re going, we must look at where we’re coming from.
Let’s take a look at how Oregon planned to spend funds before the pandemic with a general breakdown of Oregon’s 2019-2021 K-12 education budget.
- $9 billion State School Fund
- This covers general costs. The fund is mostly spent on salaries, then pays into retirement and health benefits (PERS), followed by school operating costs, classroom supplies, books, etc.
Targeted investments are how we ensure every student has a chance to thrive.
Here’s what we mean when we say targeted investments: in order to ensure every student has the chance to reach their potential, we must first acknowledge the roadblocks they face. Then, we set aside funds specifically intended to clear those roadblocks.
Since the below plans are targeted investments, they specify not only how much should be spent, but how those funds should be spent. School districts are then able to implement the plans in a way that works for their specific community. The specifications are heavily based on community input and data and are meant to ensure each dollar is spent strategically.
As we face potential statewide budget cuts, we must recognize that the below expenditures are needs, not wants. As our Executive Director Toya Fick said in the Oregonian, "Our priorities must remain clear and we cannot afford to lose ground … The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked an unforeseen havoc on our state, and we are only beginning to see the side effects. The only way to inoculate our society from future pandemics and crises is by doing all we can to provide a world-class education for all students. If we are to protect our future, we must defend our progress." Here is a breakdown of targeted legislation budgets pre-Coronavirus:
- $300 million for Measure 98
- Measure 98 is a targeted investment designed to raise Oregon’s graduation rates by funding three proven strategies for helping students succeed. Those three areas – career-technical education (CTE) courses that teach real-world skills; dropout prevention strategies that keep kids on track to graduate; and college level opportunities that offer a head start on higher education – are key to improving Oregon’s graduation rates.
Proposed budget cut: No budget cuts here!
- $472 million for the Student Investment Account
- The Student Investment Account (SIA) is another targeted investment. It makes up 50% of the spending within the Student Success Act. There are two stated purposes for these funds:
- 1. Meet students’ mental or behavioral health needs, and
- 2. Increase academic achievement for students, including reducing academic disparities for:
- Economically disadvantaged students;
- Students from racial or ethnic groups that have historically experienced academic disparities;
- Students with disabilities;
- Students who are English language learners;
- Students who are foster children;
- Students who are homeless; and
- Any other student groups that have historically experienced academic disparities, as determined by the State Board of Education.
- As longs as it is directed at the above purposes, School Districts can make a plan that works for their community and use funds for a range of things including: expanded learning time, addressing student health and safety, providing a well-rounded education, and reducing class sizes.
Proposed budget cut: state budget writers propose reducing this by 68% to $150 million. This is 32% of the pre-COVID budget amount of $472 million.
- $16 million for the African American/Black Student Success Plan, the American Indian/Alaska Native State Plan, and the Latinx Student Success Plan
- More critical targeted spending, these equity-centered success plans have spending strategies based on the specific needs of each community.
Proposed budget cut: none!
- $12.5 million for English Language Learner Support
- These funds are focused on helping English Learners to succeed academically, and overcome barriers that impede their academic success.
Proposed budget cut: none!