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Education Experts To Address Oregon’s School Funding Crisis

Colt Gill, Bethel school District
Colt Gill, Bethel school District

According to Oregon’s Quality Education Model, Oregon is shortchanging its schools by about $2 billion every two years. On March 29, a panel of education funding experts will convene at the University of Oregon to discuss “Solving Oregon’s K-12 Funding Crisis: Where We’ve Been and Solutions for the Future.”

“I think this is a really important topic for Oregonians to consider,” says Colt Gill, superintendent of the Bethel School District and one of four panelists scheduled to speak at the event sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

Gill says the discussion will include a look at the history of school funding in Oregon and how Oregon stacks up against other states. Gill, who serves on the state’s Quality Education Commission, adds that he will explain the work of the commission and its origins.

Finally, Gill says, he plans to describe how funding shortages have impacted school districts in Lane County, including class size increases and the elimination of programs.

The word “crisis” is an appropriate way to describe Oregon’s school funding situation, Gill says — Oregon’s growth for school funding is last in the nation. 

“When you’re last or close to last of 50 states on several measures, and the United States is not known any longer as an education power house, you’re bottom of the heap in a middle-of-the-pack player,” he says. “I think we’re in crisis mode.”

Gill says the issue of funding is multifaceted, but in order for change to occur, Oregonians need to figure out what they want for schools and then decide how they want to pay for it.

“Those are two things that haven’t happened here,” Gill says. “We’ve let this creep up on us, and many Oregonians don’t even realize the state of schools in Oregon.”

Other speakers at the panel include Adam Davis, who conducts public opinion research, Oregon Senator Sara Gelser, who serves on the Senate Education Committee, and John Tapogna, president of consulting firm ECONorthwest.

“Solving Oregon’s K-12 Funding Crisis” takes place 7 pm Tuesday, March 29, at the UO’s Knight Law Center, room 175. The event is free and open to the public.