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School funding action was only a first step

I want to thank everyone who has contacted me regarding the K-12 education budget for the 2015-17 biennium. I have heard from school administrators, district employees, teachers, parents, students and other concerned community members.

Most important, I know the $7.255 billion for K-12 is not enough. I understand the impact of inadequate school funding as a legislator, school board member and as a parent.

Rep. Carla PilusoOn March 23, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President announced they were pushing forward with the $7.255 billion K-12 budget. It came to the House on March 31.

The purpose of approving this budget early is to protect it from potential cuts after the next revenue forecast in May.

I voted yes to push forward to secure the highest level of K-12 funding now, without putting our public safety and human services budgets in peril, in case the May forecast does not provide additional revenue.

This budget provides a necessary floor, and promises that the K-12 funding will not dip lower, something we could not promise without passing this bill.

Through more is needed, the proposed budget includes a lot of funding additions. These increases and improvements include:

• $7.255 billion is $305 million more than what former Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed, and $600 million more than the 2013-15 K-12 education budget.

• Funding for full-day kindergarten — for the first time all school districts in Oregon will have full-day kindergarten. This is a big deal for working families and early education.

• An additional $12.5 million to improve outcomes for English Language Learning students.

• A $2.5 million increase to ensure that every student who qualifies for reduced price lunches qualifies for free lunches.

• $17 million more for districts to help support students with disabilities.

Included in the $7.255 budget is a protective trigger that will increase school funding if there is more money available after the May revenue forecast — 40 percent of any new revenue will go to the State School Fund.

In addition to the 40 percent trigger, I am joining several colleagues to discuss what we can do this session to create more revenue in our state. Revenue reform is the only way to have a significant impact on the current funding situation.

It is the only solution to the inevitable budget crunches we will face in the future if we continue to patch together a state budget through a system that never allows us to fully prioritize education.

There has been a lot of rhetoric in the Capitol over the past few days about needing to make tough choices when it comes to our budget. Voting to support a base budget of $7.255 billion for K-12 education was a tough choice, but I think we’ve avoided even tougher choices down the road by passing this budget early and protecting K-12 funding in the event that the next forecast does not supply more revenue.

Education has been and will remain a priority of mine, and that is why I voted to protect K-12 funding with a base budget of $7.255 billion. Moving the K-12 budget now was a first step, not a final step.

Rep. Carla C. Piluso, D-District 50, lives in Gresham.

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