$8.2 billion State School Fund bill moves quickly despite protests
Friday, June 9, 2017
Senate Bill 5517, the measure representing an $8.2 billion allocation to the State School Fund, moved forward rapidly this past week. It passed the Senate and could get a vote in the House as early as next week.
On Tuesday, June 6, Ways and Means scheduled a meeting solely to consider the bill. Despite widespread committee agreement that $8.2 billion wasn’t enough for schools, the full committee sent the bill to the Senate floor.
Before that work session, education advocates controversially lined the Capitol hall chanting, “8.2 just won’t do.” The protesters got the attention of lawmakers on the committee but perhaps did not have the impact they intended.
“I was the first one to walk through the gantlet,” said Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton), referring to the line of protesters, “I have always been a huge supporter of education and that stunk.” He added, “8.2 will have to do.”
House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) expressed concern with $8.2 billion in the hearing.
“I wish I could say that passing this budget today puts our kids on the pathway to a more stable and vibrant education … but instead the budget we are passing today is not even the status quo for some of our districts,” she said.
Several on the committee pointed out that $8.2 billion was more than schools were told to expect earlier in the session. They said the Legislature had done a remarkable job scraping up as much as it did given that the state is facing a $1.4 billion shortfall for the 2017-19 biennium. Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget called for $8 billion for schools, and the Ways and Means budget framework called for $7.8 billion.
The Ways and Means hearing concluded with a resounding vote in favor of the bill. Of the 23 committee members, there were only four no votes with one member excused, leaving 18 votes in favor of the measure.
On Thursday, June 8, the bill progressed to the Senate floor. The hearing was relatively brief. Senators, including the carrier of the bill Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland), endorsed it as a good bill that would give school districts the ability to plan for the upcoming biennium. Many members also referred to the $8.2 billion allocation as a floor, not a ceiling, and vowed to return. A few senators, including Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend), spoke against the bill. Knopp said that he had to respectfully oppose the measure because he had “made a commitment to his school district” to oppose an allocation below $8.4 billion.
SB 5517 passed with an overwhelming 25-5 vote. It will next move to the House floor. OSBA will monitor the bill.
Members of the Joint Ways and Means Committee on the way to vote on an $8.2 billion State School Fund bill had to travel a hall lined with education advocates chanting, “8.2 just won’t do.” (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)