Legislative Day focuses on advocating for school funding
Rep. Margaret Doherty
The chair of the House Education Committee delivered some reassurance to a roomful of school board members, educators, district staff and superintendents Monday.
“Anything that is an unfunded mandate, I’m not going to pass through committee,” said Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard) at the Legislative Day hosted by COSA and OSBA.
That was an applause-generating message for education advocates, who were receiving strategic training and guidance for dealing with the Legislature. The K-12 public education budget will be a primary focus this session.
“You have one job and the job is to make the case for why at least $8.4 billion is the minimum amount that needs to be in the State School Fund for the next biennium,” said Craig Hawkins, Confederation of Oregon School Administrators executive director, in opening remarks.
Oregon school business officials have calculated that the State School Fund needs at least $8.4 billion for most schools to continue at current service levels. The legislative budget framework presented in January offered $7.8 billion for the school fund.
Legislative Day welcomed 88 registered applicants from all over Oregon to the Mission Mill Museum of the Willamette Heritage Center. They were reminded over and again to stay focused on the need for $8.4 billion and the impact if schools don’t get it.
“Our top priority is adequate and stable funding for education,” OSBA Board President Betty Reynolds told the audience from the beginning.
Speakers gave an overview of legislative issues and advice on how to talk with legislators. Attendees, who will meet with legislators later in the day, were reminded of the power of face-to-face meetings and real-life stories about kids needing support.
“I hope to get a dedication from our senator for an advocacy for a stable funding system for education,” said Andy Grzeskowiak, Siuslaw School District superintendent. “Doesn’t matter if the economy is up or the economy is down, the kids still go to school.”
Candace Pelt, director of student services at Newberg, is concerned about well-intentioned bills that offer needed services but without additional funds. She wants to see schools adequately funded in general before focusing on particular needs.
“I’m sharing a message of minimum funding,” Pelt said.