Will local schools face even more dire cuts?

State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Oregon City) looked into his crystal ball for the North Clackamas School Board at its first of three meetings in February and called the governor’s proposed budget a recipe for “drastic cuts for this district, but perhaps not fatal cuts.” Barton also spoke to the Oregon City School Board last month and will address Gladstone’s elected school leaders at their meeting Wednesday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. at 17789 Webster Road.

Gladstone Superintendent Bob Stewart, president of the Oregon Association of School Executives, hopes the legislative update will provide some relief compared with past years.

“I believe that the Oregon Legislature will find a way so that schools don’t experience any more devastating cuts,” Stewart said.

Barton, recently elected by a slim margin on a platform of advocating for education, previously served as a state representative from Clackamas from 2008-10.

Much to the delight of School Board members, Barton said Gov. John Kitzhaber’s originally proposed $6.15 billion for K-12 education “will not cut it” and is more likely a starting point of “unacceptable cuts” calculated to put bargaining pressure on the Legislature.

“These are predictions — slightly better than the weatherman — but not much,” he said.

Barton turned out correct later that month when the governor unveiled plans to reduce budget cuts through reform of public-employee retirement plans.

However, Barton drew some concerned looks from his audience when he predicted an increase to $6.75 billion in school funding to keep “status quo” and not reduce services. School Board member Kyle Walker said she doesn’t like the phrase because it “makes it sound like we’re at an adequate service level, and we’re not.”

Barton agreed on that point, and added Sabin-Shellenberg “will come out largely unscathed”—he believes career and technical education has widespread support from governor’s office and legislators

Stewart said he also supported the governor’s priorities to make “strategic investments” in K-12 connections to college, secondary tech education and professional development, as long as the funding isn’t taken from the state’s general fund.

“We need to strategically and thoughtfully invest in our schools, but we also need an adequate base,” he said.

Barton is skeptical that PERS reforms, as proposed, will make it past the courts.

“What I fear most is that the Legislature will pass something that we’d all like to hear about — a significant PERS reform,” he said, “and then the Supreme Court throws it out after district sets its budget in June.”

NCSD Board member Gillispie said he appreciated Barton’s predictions and commitment “to all of us.”

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