OSBA Executive Director Jim Green went straight to the point Monday, telling the House Education Committee about the need for a new resolution.
“What House Joint Resolution 4 is designed to do is to tell you all to fund the Quality Education Model,” Green testified.
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.
Oregon has never funded to the model, and so each biennium the Legislature writes such a report.
“I’ve read these reports every two years, and they change the dates to say we don’t have the money to fund it,” Green said.
Committee member Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro) said the report does more than change the dates because it initiates conversations about education best practices. But she said that more needs to be done than just having a report.
Betty Reynolds (left) and Jim Green testify before the House Education Committee on the need for HJR 4.
Green laid out some of the ideals in the model for curriculum, class time, class size, support services and full-time specialist teachers. Most Oregon schools fall far short in all areas. Green pointed out that in a recent OSBA poll, 66 percent of Oregonians support amending the constitution to require funding the QEM.
“OSBA’s top legislative priority is adequate and stable education funding,” testified Betty Reynolds, OSBA board president. “House Joint Resolution 4 is one element of our proposal to fully fund Oregon’s Quality Education Model.”
HJR4 removes the law’s language about writing a report, essentially reducing the law to “the Legislative Assembly shall appropriate in each biennium a sum of money sufficient to ensure that the state’s system of public education meets quality goals established by law.”
The “quality goals established by law” is the Quality Education Model. The model is created by the 11-member Quality Education Commission, and it uses best practices based on research, data, professional judgment and public values as well as considering cost.
To meet the non-partisan Quality Education Model for 2017-19, the commission estimates the Legislature would need to put $9.97 billion in the State School Fund. The legislative budget framework presented in January offered $7.8 billion, nearly $2.2 billion below the amount required by law.
“We need more,” testified Tim Sweeney, superintendent of Coquille School District.
Sweeney, who appeared with two Coquille High School students, explained that his district has done great things, particularly in early education, but that short budgets are taking a toll in the education and services offered, particularly at the high school level.
Morgan Allen, deputy executive director of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, said that when adjusted for inflation, Oregon has not increased per-student spending since 1991. Allen showed a correlation between statistics on low spending and poor student achievement relative to other states.
“There is absolutely a relationship between investment and outcomes,” said Allen.
Marc Thielman, Alsea School District superintendent, confronted the problem facing the Legislature of revenue not being enough to support QEM.
“There is no money because we have spent a couple of decades putting our money into other services and things at the detriment of education,” he said.
The QEM would have kept the money focused on education, he said, and that would have in turn created more revenue for Oregon through a more productive workforce. Thielman also mentioned new OSBA polling that shows Oregon would support increased taxes if they were dedicated to K-12 public education.
“We have no revenue,” he said. “We really need the business community to come to the table.”