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Rep. Johnson introduces bill to boost school funding statewide

House bill would place all added May revenue in school fund


Oregon Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, has filed a bill in the Oregon Legislature aimed at boosting school funding after the Legislature passed a $7.255 billion school fund that all players called inadequate.

Johnson's House Bill 3538 calls for 100 percent of any increase in state money expected from the May revenue forecast to be put toward K-12 school funding. Currently, only 40 percent of any increase would be added to the school fund.

Rep. Mark JohnsonThe revenue forecast, to be released May 14, is expected to show an increase in revenue as Oregon's economy gains strength.

“The K-12 education budget that was passed on a party-line vote is inadequate, underfunds our schools, and does nothing to help alleviate large class sizes and outdated curricula,” Johnson said in a statement.

Majority Democrats voted to pass the $7.255 billion school funding bill, while Republicans objected. At that funding level, Sandy's Oregon Trail School District would have a deficit of about $800,000.

“It is difficult to comment on the bill, because we don't know what the revenue forecast will be,” said Julia Monteith, the district's communications director.

Jim Green, deputy executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, said he hasn't seen any other formal proposals besides HB 3538.

“When they (the Legislature) passed this bill they were betting on the come,” Green said, expecting more money to be available from increasing tax revenues.

But Green would not be surprised to see other proposals as legislators hear from their constituents about what the $7.255 funding level will do to local schools.

“Just this week, I attended our school board meeting in Hood River and saw firsthand the potential consequences of layoffs and the loss of instructional days as a result of this budget," said Rep. Johnson, who is also a member of the Hood River School Board.

Johnson believes that directing 100 percent of the increase in the May revenue forecast “will help address these concerns by stabilizing local budgets," he said.

The next step for the bill is a public hearing before the Revenue Committee.

Green said 100 percent of any added revenue is unlikely to put the state's schools where they need to be to avoid cuts to school days, staff or programs.

Prior to the Legislature passing the funding bill, school supporters outlined the effects of three levels of funding. A $7.255 billion level was deemed “underfunded” and was predicted to result in teacher and staff layoffs, bigger class sizes, shorter school years and reduction of programs.

A $7.5 billion level of funding was considered “fragile stability” and $7.87 billion would have put schools on an improvement trajectory. The Oregon Trail District would have just about broken even at the $7.5 billion funding level.

“Since there’s broad consensus among both Republicans and Democrats in the building to increase education funding this biennium, I’m calling on the Legislature to take action now and devote 100 percent of the May revenue forecast to K-12 schools to show a true commitment to our students,” Johnson said.

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