1903 – State courts set up new county school funds that taxed their residents a minimum of $6 per child for each school year. 85% of which went to teacher salary.
1920 – Oregon had 2,543 school districts.
1950 – Basic School Support per child increased to $80. There was not an amount listed for how much of this went to teacher salary.
1973 – Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act passed (amended in 1995) that gave public employees more rights and power over their wages and compensation. This significantly increased school operating costs.
1975-78 – School districts were finally required to identify children with disabilities and provide appropriate education for them. This program is federally mandated but is very underfunded and one of the major operating costs for the districts.
1983 – “Nation at Risk” is recognized in Oregon and action is taken in response to the low quality of education by making an Action Plan for Excellence.
1991 – Legislative goal set to unify districts and reduce the number to 199 by 1998. There was a steady unification of school districts sense the 2,543 districts in the 20’s. Measure 5 was passed.
1993 – Schools start receiving lottery dollars.
2001-2002 – The financial situation for Oregon schools worsens. The revenue for the approved budget was short by $1.8 billion (17%).
2002 – EEF (education endowment fund) was converted into a “rainy day fund” but $150 million was used to ease the impact of the revenue loss on schools.
- For a more expanded version of the timeline above visit: http://www.osba.org/Resources/Article/Budget_and_Finance/History_of_school_funding.aspx
- More on the history and some important court cases leading to government action can be found at: http://www.schoolfunding.info/states/or/lit_or.php3
Even with this simplified version of the funding history of Oregon schools we can see the worsening budget crises and quality of education. What do you think the purpose of unifying or consolidating school districts was? How would this affect the barriers to equitable school funding?
In the 1970’s the government provided 78% of school funding. This money came primarily from property taxes. Per pupil property value varied significantly between districts from about $9-$20 per $1000 in tax. This difference equals about $674 up to $1,795 per child spending for districts. This is a huge spending gap and let to some important “equity” cases such as the one in 1976. The Oregon Supreme Court acknowledged the disparities and links between educational opportunities for students from lower spending districts. The ruling was not in the favor of the lower income but it created more awareness that there was a rising issue with education inequality. This information also relates to our class readings about families in poverty that are being pushed into counties and with a higher poverty rate. Measure 5 was passed in 1991 that required states to provide revenue to districts to make up for the lost money from the limitations placed on property tax. Oregon now provides 75% of school funding which takes up 50% of or state’s general fund. What benefits did this have? How did it affect the different communities? This shift caused some improvement in the per student spending equity among districts.
Current Issues and the Role of Voters
Current funding seems very interconnected with the role of voters. Districts are allowed to try for temporary levies for funding that are decided by the voters. Districts must hope that the voters will approve their levies and budget accordingly because they are only temporary, with the standard time frame being 5 years. This reliance on levies to fill the budget gaps makes it really difficult for the state to equalize funding between schools. Does this style of funding build barriers to education and funding equity between districts? The state has also not been able to keep up with inflation in their funding for k-12 schools. The lack of funds create barriers for learning and quality education by causing forced budget cuts. These cuts lead to larger class size, cuts in staff, pay freezes, and consolidating schools. Many reform goals I found listed on the internet were about educational achievement and test scores. I did not see action plans for how to reach those goals, or how to maintain support for those students and families that don’t have the needed support for educational attainment. Would closing smaller neighborhood schools and converting to large less local schools affect education? How would it effect socialization? Student accountability if they are 1 student out of 200 vs. 1 student out of 700?
In addition to the links listed above I also added some more sights with helpful information for those wanting to research Oregon School Funding.
- Oregon Education Associating site has a lot of good info on their goals and how they are working to support and improve the Oregon school system and budget crises: http://www.oregoned.org/site/pp.asp?c=9dKKKYMDH&b=297462
- Glossary of school finance terms from OEA: http://www.oregoned.org/site/pp.asp?c=9dKKKYMDH&b=5576925
- Current funding and role of voters: http://bluebook.state.or.us/education/educationintro.htm