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Another tough budget for Oregon's schools

There's some disturbing news for the Crook County School District under Governor Ted Kulongoski's proposed state budget.
   According to Crook County Superintendent Steve Swisher, the proposed state budget means not enough money for Crook County schools.
   "This is definitely underfunding the schools," Swisher said.
   The governor proposed setting aside $5 billion for schools during the next biennium, which is a $100 million increase from the last biennium.
   And as has been pointed out, this is about 2.3 percent above what the current year's budget is for schools. That's good for schools, but the state has not made up for a series of cuts in the last four years.
   Gov. Kulongoski has made it clear that this is only a proposed budget and that if possible, he certainly wants more for schools.
   So do we.
   As the Oregon Legislature meets in January to budget for the next biennium, we hope legislators take a hard look at the budget and allocate more money where it is most needed: for public safety, for seniors and veterans and for children.
   Superintendent Swisher explained that for every $100 million in the budget, about $500,000 translates to Crook County dollars. This is a rough estimate that changes with the number of students the district has. And about 85 percent of the school district budget goes toward paying teachers, classified staff and other employees.
   The increasing costs of gas and other energy costs are a burden for districts.
   "Basically, with what the governor has proposed we would still be making cuts just to keep and maintain our current programs," Swisher added.
   State School Superintendent Susan Castillo has said that the $5 billion the governor has proposed would mean that more schools will have to increase class size, curtail programs or shorten the school year. It's too early to tell what, if any, of those choices the Crook County School Board would have to make, but none of them are particularly appealing.
   As the Legislature prepares to meet in January, we hope the legislators and governor can come to an agreement to provide more money for K-12. Even better would be a more permanent solution to the school funding problem. After all, the future of Oregon is dependent on our state's children and the success or failure of our children depends on their education. Looking at the governor's proposed budget and in light of recent state cuts, their future looks bleak.
   
   Shelby Case
   for the editorial board