Teachers to Oregon: Schools need more funding

Report calls for investing $3 billion more per year

A computer and pencils in a classroom (Public Domain Photos, Axelle B)
A computer and pencils in a classroom (Public Domain Photos, Axelle B)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new report from the Oregon Education Association said the state’s decline in public school investment puts Oregon schools near the bottom in the nation.

The report, released by the OEA along with the Oregon Parent Teachers Association and AFT-Oregon is called “Decades of Disinvestment: The State of School Funding in Oregon.”

The report looks at how schools were funded before 1990 — mostly through local property taxes — and since Measure 5 was passed.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Oregon’s student-teacher ratio of 20.7 in 2014-15 was about one-third higher than the national average of 15.8
  • Oregon students spent 169.9 days in the class in 2014-15, well short of the 180 days per year most states require
  • There are now fewer than 700 career and tech ed programs statewide, down from a high of 1200
  • A document on school funding states Oregon would need to spend about $3 billion more per year to equal the top state, Massachusetts.

When it comes to funding, Massachusetts is number 1 and Oregon is ranked 39th. But before the passage of Measure 5 in 1990, Oregon was 15th in school funding.

Some local teachers hope a new ballot measure that Oregonians will vote on in December could help generate more funding for local schools that are struggling to provide arts and humanities classes and maintain reasonable class sizes.

Ballot Measure 97 would levy a 2.5% tax on the biggest corporations in the state that have more than $25 million in sales a year.

Teachers who support the measure say it’s great way to help raise additional revenue that would be earmarked for education, healthcare and senior services.

But not everyone is for it. Emily Powell said it would be “extremely damaging” to her family’s namesake business Powell’s Books.

An analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office found ballot measure 97 could actually cost Oregonians more in the long run. The study determined the corporate tax would result in the loss of thousands of private sector jobs and increase the tax burden on Oregon families by $600 per capita per year.

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