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Tough choices brought by fluctuations in state school funding, income tax revenues

Oregon has a long history of support for public education. The voters of the Oregon Territory provided for a uniform, and general system of Common Schools. The Oregon Constitution requires paying for educating our young people and refers to adequate and equitable funding.FILE PHOTO - Betty Reynolds

Today, however, school board members statewide face tough choices affecting the future of about 580,000 students in grades K-12. Although Oregonians can celebrate a strong economy, education funding remains uncertain. School funding is tied to the fluctuations of personal income tax revenue, and the anomaly of the personal kicker, PERS costs, and now Ballot Measure 101, which could impact some of our most vulnerable students. 

Boards may again face decisions of cutting back instructional time and laying off teachers. Education's share of the general fund is lower than past decades, and sadly, academic performance may reflect that, such as the third-lowest graduation rate in the country.

Collaboration on support for public education and adequate and stable funding is more important than ever. The Oregon School Boards Association collaborates with many partners in advocacy for public education, including the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Oregon Education Association, Oregon PTA, and many others.  

There's positive momentum with business and government leaders as well, such as Gov. Kate Brown's recent outreach to stakeholders on cost containment/PERS proposals and revenue reform, and Senate President Peter Courtney's plans for a special joint legislative committee on school funding. And, during the Oregon Business Plan's Leadership Summit earlier this month, business leaders and legislators called for bringing industry groups, politicians, unions, and others to the table as quickly as possible to address both cost containment and revenue. 

We can all help in sustaining that momentum, by collaborating in grassroots support for public education:  

¦ Advocate on behalf of students with decision-makers, friends, neighbors, co-workers and civic groups.

¦ Become a friend of public education by visiting the National School Boards Action Center's website at https://www.nsbac.org/node/166  and joining this national grassroots advocacy effort. 

If we all pull together, we can help ALL Oregon students fulfill their promise, and assure a vibrant future for Oregon. 

Betty Reynolds is president of the Oregon School Boards Association, treasurer of the National School Boards Action Center, and member of the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board.  She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.