Parents fight against education funding cuts

There is a $1.4 billion shortfall in the state budget

School supplies, file. (Nick Amoscato via Flickr Creative Commons)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Schools are facing potential budget cuts on federal, state and local levels and parents are speaking out with their concerns.

Dozens of parents gathered at the Oregon State Capitol Thursday hoping lawmakers will hear them and prevent those cuts from happening.

“We had 10 out of 15 school bonds pass across the state,” rally organizer Sunny Petit said. “Individuals are reaching into their pockets now and we’re investing in infrastructure in schools, but what good is that if we’re not going to be able to fill the staff?”

Parents say they have already heard from schools about teachers who won’t be back next year.

“We’re losing an art teacher, we’re losing a library teacher, we’re losing our vice principal, we’re losing behavior support,” Petit said.

“Never before has a high-quality education been more important to the lives and well-being of Oregonians. Despite great uncertainty at the federal level, I will continue to fight for an equitable, seamless system of education that opens doors of opportunity and prepares all Oregonians for rewarding careers.” — Gov. Kate Brown

Along with losing teachers, some schools are cutting back on staff hours.

“At my school we’re looking at a half-time school secretary, half-time PE teacher,” said Michelle Ganow-Jones, a mother of two from NE Portland.

That’s why Petit organized the Fully Fund Oregon Schools rally. 

“We just couldn’t take it anymore,” Petit said. “We’re sitting in these tearful meetings, talking about what the cuts will look like and what our schools will look like and how big our class sizes are getting. Staying awake at night thinking, ‘Is the the state we want to live in?'”

Some lawmakers are listening, including three senior House Democrats who saw the $1.4 billion shortfall in the state budget and decided they needed to come up with ways to fund education.

Rep. Nancy Nathanson, Speaking Tina Kotek and Rep. Phil Barnhart released an initiative called the Oregon Education Investment Initiative that would reform corporate taxes, hoping to tax businesses that are doing well.

Of that money, 75% would go toward education, but that idea is still in its beginning stages and not yet in bill form.

Political experts say even if a major federal cut to education does happen, federal funding only makes up a very small portion of how education is funded in Oregon. Most of the money comes from the state budget.