Rep. Richardson: Record Breaking K-12 Budget Approved

Oregon’s $6.245 Billion Kindergarten-12th grade budget for 2007-09 passed out of the Ways and Means Education Subcommittee on May 24th and will make its way to the Senate and House Floors for a vote within the next two weeks.

The $6.245 Billion K-12 budget is the largest education budget in Oregon’s history and represents a 17.7% increase over the current biennium’s $5.3 Billion K-12 budget. It represents an “Average Daily Membership” (weighted) allocation for each student of $6,579. The “weighted” formula for allocating money to schools provides for an enhanced allotment for students with special needs. For instance, schools may get 1.5 or even double the funding paid for an average student for every student who “speaks English as a second language,” or otherwise fits into special needs child classifications.

The $6.245 Billion is only the General and Lottery Fund portion of K-12’s total budget. When an additional $2.817 Billion of local (property tax) revenue is added the Total K-12 budget is $9.062 Billion. Using simple arithmetic if we divide the average actual (unweighted) daily attendance of K-12 students (534,828) into the total K-12 budget ($9.062 Billion–biennial), Oregon’s average annual cost per K-12 student is $8,472.

Anyway you calculate it, this is a large sum of money. We all agree educating our children is a top priority for Oregon families. In a prior newsletter I set forth preliminary questions I believe should be asked by every school district, PTA, parent and teacher, and I will not repeat them here. Now that we know the 2007-09 K-12 budget amount, the next question is how will it be spent? Two leaders of Oregon’s Chalkboard Project in a recent article summed it up nicely, “A record-year budget should require record-level accountability.”

I appreciate the dedicated work performed by the Chalkboard Project. If we link to their website we can see how much has been done to promote lifting Oregon’s public education system to the next level. Of particular interest is the links we find to individual school districts’ budget information. Click here to see your school district’s budget breakdown. It is worth the time to link to your own school district and see for yourself how it divides its revenues. Peeling back the onion of school district finances is an important first step to improving public confidence in our school system. Financial transparency is vital.

Mr. Jerry Hudson, a former president of Willamette University and a Chalkboard Project board member suggests the Legislature require all school districts open their business practices to a “mandatory outside review” (a euphemism for “audit”), every few years. I thoroughly agree.

In fact, both Republicans and Democrats strongly support H.B. 2613 which is Chalkboard’s suggested legislation to enhance school district financial accountability. This is important bipartisan legislation, and it can become law if the majority party allows it to come to the floor for a vote.

Every Oregon school district will now determine how they will spend their portion of the K-12 budget, including each district’s portion of the extra $260 million “School Improvement Fund.” Since spending decisions will be made at a local school district level, it is an ideal time for concerned citizens to become involved. Citizen input is needed both for spending decisions and for ensuring school district accountability. I firmly believe, in nearly all aspects of life: where performance is measured, performance improves.

A final consideration when evaluating Oregon’s K-12 budget is the issue of sustainability. The “Legislatively Approved Budget” for our current 2005-07 biennium for K-12 is $5.3 Billion ($7.9 Billion when local revenues are included). To maintain the current service level for the next two years without enhancing the number of teachers or programs would require an additional $720,600,000. In other words, nearly ¾ of a billion dollars must be added to the 2005-07 budget merely to cover K-12’s increases in student growth, PERS rate changes, health benefit increases (9% per year), COLA’s, teacher step increases in pay, turnover savings, and inflation on services and supplies.

The proposed budget for 2007-09 does much more than merely maintain our current service level. It adds $196 million to the general “State School Fund” budget, plus an additional $260 million for the School Improvement Fund. Thus, the proposed budget adds nearly ½ of a billion dollars more than would be needed to maintain the current service level. Whether we like it or not, such an increase will have an affect on future K-12 budgets. When spending levels are increased, expectations for future budgets are created. Sustaining the proposed record breaking K-12 budget in future biennia is highly improbable.

Sincerely,

Dennis Richardson
State Representative

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Posted by at 06:41 | Posted in Measure 37 | 15 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • The Write Idea Online

    Money=good schools, or so the Legislature believes. Well just give um more $$ and they will fix the school system. Um, er, it’s not broken, rather, they just need more $$.

    Vote comes up for a school choice in committee: no, we don’t need that.

    We just need to give our schools more money, again.

    Hhmmmm.

  • beleveitornot

    Senator Richardson forgot to mention that the K-12 education budget is just being restored to previous levels before Oregon became the laughing stock of the nation with the shortest school years in the country, large class sizes and creation of fee based participation in sports and other activities.

    The children in our state deserve at least a ‘middle-of-the-road’ education. Stop by copy machine shops early in the morning and you’ll find teachers paying for paper and copies with their own dime because the school supplies have run out. Check out the outdated textbooks. They aren’t replaced because publishers now charge $60 for just one Social Studies book.

    Go sit in on school budget meetings in your local community. Inform yourself. Last of all don’t forget the latest polling question, “Whom do you trust to manage the public’s finances, Republicans or Democrats? Republicans have had the edge on that until now. The public has reversed and see Democrats as the ones who are not guilty of massive over spending. The public sees Republicans as big government run amok, with the highest national debt in history. Wonder where the limited government Republicans have gone?

    • Chris McMullen

      You can blame greedy Teacher and Public employee unions for the shorter school year. If you think unions have our kids best interests in mind, you’re a fool.

      Oregon ranks 20th in the nation for per student funding — down from 15th. Considering Oregon’s population ranks 28th in the nation, Oregon Public Education is well funded.

      With this new bill, teachers, administrators and union thugs can walk away with even more of our tax dollars.

      Hope you’re happy.

      • Anonymous

        Oh really chris? Unless you don’t want your teachers earning a crappy wage to put up with your brats. teachers deserve more pay then they get. so i’m all for some of the money going to them. but really, they aren’t to blame for shorter school years. you can blame libertarian thinkers who don’t want the public to educate people. they’d rather the private sector do it. oh, and for less pay as well.

        so, do you REALLY think that administrators and teachers and union folks take bags of money home with them? and use thier spoils on thier lavish lifestyles? please. they already pay with thier own money for supplies, books, decorations etc.

        oh, and do you think how much education costs is simply where you rank on the ladder as far as population? non-sense. demographics have a huge impact. low income kids have a huge impact. a large immigrant population has a huge impact.

        • Steven Plunk

          Rather than rant I thought I would share my opinion in a more thoughtful manner. It is a combination of PERS cost, high cost for health insurance, and poor management that lead to shorter school years. Not that shorter years are a problem. Many days are wasted during the year by only going half day or inservice days. Teachers are paid well for the amount of work they do and the lack of professional conduct you can see at any school.

          For those of us who have “brats” going to public school we see teachers and administrators less than willing to listen to suggestions we may have. That leads to the frustration you can see now at the voting booth. For a while parents held their noses and voted for higher taxes thinking the school’s knew best. That illusion is gone now so the votes are not there.

          I studied the certified annual financial reports (CAFR’s) for ten years and could see many areas where money was going the wrong direction and not helping students. It’s interesting that when I first asked for these documents the superindendant at the time instructed staff not to give them to me contrary to the law. Administrators know these reports are where to look to understand school finances.

          Oregon is doing fine when considering how much we spend on students and how our test scores come out. We are far from crisis as long as PERS is controlled and citizens take a more active approach to keeping an eye on administrators and even teachers.

          I have no sympathy for administrators who complain about the costs of educating “special needs” children. Much of the difficulty lies in the web of regulations that educators themselves advocated for in previous years. “Special” kids meant “special” dollars from different sources and that looked too good to pass up at the time. Now it’s become more difficult but you reap what you sow.

  • CRAWDUDE

    Most of this new money is in the form of benefits for the Public Unions…………….we might have well just flushed it down a toilet straight into the Willamette.

    Fiddle on voters, while your politicians burn down your state.

  • Captain_Anon

    I wonder what else Sen. Richardson considers “special needs.” students. i would be the majority of the money earmarked for such education is for special education and those with mental disabilities. those programs are EXPENSIVE.

    regardless, i think those in school districts who hace 30 to 40 students per teacher would like the increase in funding to help out in decreasing class size, improving capital maintenance to more than just keeping buildings from imploding, and updated class materials – never mind the new buildings necessary to house all the new students in each respective district.

    It still boggles my mind that people in this state, and in particular on this board, still hold the believe that teachers should not received cost of living adjustments, nor should they receive raises of any kind (typically they get 3-5% per year). with the increase of stupid parents who throw thier own tantrums and thier clueless kids who are completely misbehaved, they deserve thier raises.

    • CRAWDUDE

      Capt. when you bring up the moron parents and their moron kids, they are some of the reasons I’m less than supportive of the way the schools are run here. 90% of the parents / 95% of the teachers out there are hard working, intelligent , dedicated people .

      The 5% of teachers that aren’t give you guys the biggest black eye and due to union rules they aren’t replaced by good teachers. That’s where the cyniscism (no points for spelling on that 😉 about teachers come from.

      As for the moron students , expell them so they don’t disrupt the good students, then you don’t deal with the moron parents. Oh that’s right, this is Oregon and each student means money so we’ll keep the trouble makers in school for the bucks, regardless of the distraction they cause teachers and other students.

      Just a caveat on the subject, if the children of illegal aliens that live in this state weren’t allowed in the schools *(e.g them and their parents were sent home) there would be plents of money to give a decent COLA to teachers. Does anyone still think that illegals “Don’t” drive US citizens wages down?

  • CRAWDUDE

    I don’t mind the fact that they get good cost of living increases. It’s the unsustainable retirement system that sucks much of our tax dollars away from the schools , they also don’t have to pay Oregon income tax once they do retire. That and various other benies the public unions have been able to put in place; free health care in most districts (yes, there are a few charge a pentence), 2 year paid sabbaticals to get their masters degress, summers off (while you’ll never see them divide their pay over 9 months since the public might be shocked at what they earn).

    Cost of living increases aren’t a problem…………….until coupled with all their other benies and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

    Case in point: of the 397 million dollar taken from hard working families during the 3 year Mult. Co. income tax……75% went to pay and benefits for the teachers and administrators, the other 25% was what the students got. Not a fair return from my point of view!

    • Capt_Anon

      Hi Craw,

      well, remember, PERS was drastically changed in 2003. and the new systems is just like a private system – similar to a 401K. so that part of the equation has changed and as time goes on, you will see considerable changes in the bottom lines of schools. most districts that i’m aware of now pay into thier health system. not 100%, but they still contribute. i’ve seen several teacher contracts online, and i really dont’ think thier pay is shocking. at least not shockingly high. if anything, shockingly low. they put up with so much crap from students, parents, and administers, it’s no wonder that they only average 5 years in the field before going on to greener pastures. I’ve NEVER heard of a school district giving paid sabbaticals to teachers to get masters degrees. in fact, all the teachers i know (and i know quite a few) have had to pay thier own way to get a MANDATORY masters degree. and one guy i know in particular had to get it within 5 years of being hired (up in Edmonds-Woodway – in washington). perhaps Oregon is different, but i haven’t asked my friends about that here. I’ve never heard the numbers on the Itax payments. that’s pretty surprising. i do know that districts like Portland PUB Schools are very top heavy in management and pay very high salaries and even higher severence packages. that to me is awful. ben canada, goldschmidt etc. never should have had those golden parachutes. I heard the legislature was changing that thankfully.

      • CRAWDUDE

        Most of the dramatic changes in PERS that were signed into law by the Gov. have been overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court. Unfortunately the systems remains wholely the same as before but it has a few changes. No more guarateed 8% return on bad investments by the PERS board, PERS governors were reduce to 5 and now are held to over sight but any reduced district expenditures on PERS will not be seen for a decade. The Pro-public Union bills / contracts the current legislature is allowing/ passing will no doubt negate those meager gains.

        As for the school discussion, most of my knowledge come from the PPS not the overall state schools. I know PPS in run worse and costs more than many other districts so some of what I said as a general rule may only pertain to PPS schools. All of which you said about it being top heavy is wholey correct. It’s been my observation that it could be run much cheaper and fairer if it wasn’t for the unions involvement. Right now the health care premiums paid per teacher in Portland $1050 with no co-pays for office / hospital visits (I wish I had that) , all retired PERS members pay no Oregon income tax……..now that is a slap in the face to any tax paying Oregon citizen in my opinion.

        Yes, it is nice the golden parachutes are possibly being eliminated but the bill states that the districts cannot pay more than the left overs of the person contract. This leaves the possibility of incentive ladened contracts designed to give a golden parachute without explicitly guaranteeing one. Time will tell if this is another wolf in sheeps clothing.

  • Rick Hickey

    Yes Schools get tons of extra money for Non-English speaking Students.
    This is why my Bill HB3112 has gone no where as Democrats told me that Immersion would work BUT Schools want that extra money and if they really did a good job for these Migrant students they would be out of their ELL “Special” classes in only one or two years instead of 5-7 and MONEY is more important than KIDS.

    Thats OK I guess as the Ballot Measure for Immersion only WILL be Voted on in Nov. 2008 and it will pass and then we can take that extra $Hundreds$ of Million of wasted Dollars per year for Smaller Classes or Sports or Music or Art or…

    Hopefull enough people actually care about Kids and Betty Komp & other Democrats on House Ed. Comm. are FIRED!

    • Anonymous

      The OEA – making kids second class citizens through ESL so they can get their hands on more money.

      When I was a kid we had lots of kids coming into our schools from Europe. They’d show up on the first day barely speaking english and be fluent within a few months. The parents knew and understood the value of learning english. I remember these kids were usually forbidden by their parents to speak any language but english in the home. Of course we didn’t have an enormous ESL bureaucracy dependent on inability to assimilate for funding. Imagine, a bureaucracy that loses money if students succeed. Could there be a dumber concept?

  • Joe Moneybags

    Congrats Rep. Richardson on giving more money, lacking any reforms, and blogging here too!

    BTW, Could I have some more money too?

  • Anon

    Thank goodness that Democrats are back in charge in Salem. Rather than another year of larger class sizes, shorter school years, and depleted academic programs, we are now back on the road toward a quality education.

    16 years of Republican control in Salem brought us school funding cut after cut.

    Democratic control has put us on the road back to educational sanity.

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