Under a ballot measure passed by voters, since 2001 state law has required the Legislature to appropriate in each biennium enough money to meet the Quality Education Model. As interpreted by court rulings, the Legislature can alternatively publish a report that says why the state couldn’t fund to the model.
The Legislature has never met the model’s funding goals. The 2016 Quality Education Commission determined that to meet the model for 2017-19, the State School Fund would have to be $9.97 billion. The Legislature appropriated $8.2 billion for 2017-19, leaving a gap of nearly $1.8 billion.
“The model shows what a quality education can be,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green. “It’s well past time the Legislature provides funding to meet it.”
During the 2017 legislative session, OSBA supported a resolution to force the Legislature to fund to the model. House Joint Resolution 4 would have removed the option of writing a report from the law, essentially making the law that the Legislature must fund to the model.
The bill did not make it out of committee, but stable and adequate education funding remains among OSBA’s legislative priorities, as it works toward revenue reform.
The report, as previous ones have stated, said funding was insufficient because of inadequate revenue growth for the state and rapid cost increases for the districts, including employee-related costs, the Public Employees Retirement System and health benefits.
The report named 10 funding shortfall areas, including:
$361 million to lower class sizes in elementary schools.
$281 million to improve instruction through efforts such as mentoring and peer review.
$278 million to add teachers in middle and high schools.
$242 million to add special education and alternative education resources.
During the hearing Tuesday, Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) addressed a rhetorical question to Oregon Education Association Government Relations Consultant Laurie Wimmer that could presage discussions in the coming session: If the Legislature funded any of the shortfall areas but required that the money be used specifically for that purpose, which areas would OEA support?
Boquist said he did not expect an answer at this time.
Members of the Joint Interim Special Committee on Public Education Appropriation requested some changes in the report for clarity before voting on it. The committee will meet again before Jan. 1, but a date hasn’t been set.