OSBA work group tackles longstanding revenue reform issue
Thursday, June 9, 2016
The OSBA revenue reform advisory work group, led by OSBA President-elect Betty Reynolds and Deputy Executive Director Jim Green, was created to address an issue brought to the forefront during the 2015 OSBA Fall Regional meetings. Then, local school board members statewide voiced their support of revenue reform to address an issue Oregon has grappled with for decades: school funding adequacy and stability. The reality of what that might look like, however, is much more challenging.
The work group has been charged with bringing a recommendation for the structure of a revenue reform package that school board members could support. Ten board members from across the state have participated in multiple meetings to discuss reform options including IP 28, Sen. Mark Hass’ plan, property tax reform, a retail sales tax and other ideas.
The group agreed that any plan must provide the following four things:
Adequate, stable and equitable funding to public schools in Oregon
Funding dedicated to K-12 public schools in Oregon
New, additional revenue for public schools (cannot be revenue-neutral)
Address cost drivers (the Public Employees Retirement System [PERS] and health insurance) in the educational system to allow funds to be directed to the classroom
The work group has agreed that a core focus of the plan must include an amendment to the Oregon Constitution, Article VIII, Section 8, subsection 1. This section was added to the Constitution by the voters in 2000 requiring the Legislature to fund schools with adequate resources to meet the Quality Education Model.
But the language of this section provides the Legislature with an “out.” That “out” states that if the Legislature does not appropriate the necessary funds to meet the goals, the Legislature can simply write a report. Since 2001, the Legislature has written a report each biennium.
To hold the Legislature to the funding requirement, which is what most Oregonians thought they were voting on in 2000, the recommendation is to eliminate the “out” for the Legislature. A ballot measure would need to be created, either through the Legislature or through the initiative petition process, to require a statewide vote.
The work group continues to discuss the ways to raise new, dedicated revenue for public schools and address the cost drivers of PERS and healthcare. Green and Legislative Specialist Lori Sattenspiel continue to work with legislators and education partners to address these challenging topics.
The work group’s efforts are in direct response to the issues you raised at last year’s Fall Regional meetings. Stay tuned for recommendations from the work group later this summer and more information at the Fall Regional meetings in September and October.