By Representative Jules Bailey (HD-42). Editor's note: Bailey voted against the K-12 budget passed by the Oregon House last week. For an another view, read the guest column by Rep. Michael Dembrow.
Last Wednesday, the House gave final approval to an education budget that provides $5.7 billion in funding to public schools. Some legislators and pundits argued that this budget was the best we could do for schools, and that we had no choice but to pass it. But we do have a choice, and we can do better. That’s why I voted against the education budget.
Portland Public Schools estimates that even after making staffing and administrative changes to save money, the current budget represents 21 days of lost class time. I cannot support a budget that could mean almost a month of lost school days for kids in my district. This budget is unacceptable when there is $444 million left in reserve funds.
With the economy hurting, now is the time to use as much of the Education Stability Fund as we can. This is the situation for which the legislature created it. We could still take out another $100 million and have sufficient money left for an additional crisis later in the biennium.
That’s why I’ve co-sponsored a bill, with many other House Democrats and led by Reps. Hoyle and Doherty, to take more money out of the Education Stability Fund for the full spectrum of education. We will need all hands on deck to pass this bill.
Education is an investment that pays off now and in the future. Disinvestment in education and lost school days hurt Oregon in many ways. Lost school days not only shortchange our children, they also force parents to take more time off work, and cost us valuable jobs in our schools. And they hurt Oregon’s economy right when we need jobs.
I recently asked a vice-president of a major clean energy firm what we could do to attract more businesses to Oregon. He told me that companies don’t want to locate in Oregon when their employees don’t want to put their kids in our school system. Driving home that point, on Tuesday, Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s software and services group, told the Portland Business Alliance that for Intel and other businesses to succeed, Oregon needs to make better investments at all levels of education, starting with our public schools.
Investing in education not only means creating the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, it also means bringing good jobs to Oregon right now. If we won’t invest in our schools, businesses won’t invest in us.
It’s true we’ve raised the floor on education funding. But our children are watching. And this budget is a poor platform for them to reach their dreams.