The present and past funding of Oregon's schools

Chuck Sheketoff

The Great Recession slammed Oregon public schools, causing teacher layoffs and exacerbating the overcrowding of classrooms. Six years after the economic crisis, school funding in Oregon had yet to return to pre-recession levels, according to a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In 2014, after adjusting for inflation, Oregon public schools received 8.9 percent less in funding from state and local sources than they did in 2008. Sure, the state has put more money into education in recent years, but until recently, our schools had yet to climb out of the hole caused by the Great Recession.

The funding woes of Oregon public schools, however, long predate the Great Recession. It used to be that Oregon schools were some of the best-funded, best-performing schools in the nation. That ended in the 1990s when two ballot measures — Measures 5 and 50 — shackled Oregon’s property tax system, which had been the principal funding source of Oregon public schools.

The Oregon legislature was supposed to pick up the slack, but it has failed to keep up its promise to Oregon and its children. So while the Great Recession further pummeled our public schools, the biggest blow occurred a quarter century ago.

Older Oregonians will remember that their schools had school counselors, nurses and librarians. Today, many schools across our state lack these basic features of a quality school.

The deficiencies of our educational system don't stop there. We have some of the nation's most crowded classrooms, some of the shortest school years, and low graduation rates. Many Oregon schools can't provide students rich course offerings in science, technology, engineering and math — the “STEM” courses that prepare children for the technological world which they will enter after graduation. Many schools also don’t offer much in the way of arts, which help children develop their creativity and cognitive skills.

That is why we say Measure 97 is the most important measure on the ballot in a generation. It is the first real opportunity to resolve the chronic underfunding of Oregon public schools, an opportunity that is not likely to come around again in the foreseeable future.

A “yes” vote on Measure 97 is a vote to fulfill our duty to provide all Oregon children a quality education.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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