The Oregon House of Representatives today passed the largest-ever budget for the state’s public schools. The budget is a $1 billion increase over the last biennium, and will allow many school districts across the state to re-hire teachers and stabilize programs after years of cuts, according to a press release from the Office of the House of Representatives.
“The last half decade has seen over 7,000 teacher layoffs and seemingly endless cuts to school days,” says House Speaker Tina Kotek. “With this budget we’re offering school districts certainty and stability; we’re positioning Oregon schools to turn the corner so we can begin reinvesting in the most critical element of our future prosperity.”
The $6.75 billion budget directly allocates $6.55 billion for the state’s public schools, coupled with $200 million in school district savings to the Public Employee Retirement System enacted in SB 822, which passed earlier this session.
Rep. Peter Buckley is quoted saying, “When we crafted the state budget, we prioritized schools with a $6.75 billion investment. I’ve been pleased to learn what that means for many school districts across the state, including those I represent, who are adding teachers and programs. After years of cuts, it’s time to start rebuilding. We still have more to do, but today marks a turning point in Oregon’s recovery.”
The budget passed 53-5 with two excused and now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.
This is Rep. Phil Barnhart's report sent to weekly newspapers this week:
With the end of the legislative session fast approaching, we are still working to accomplish what Oregonians sent us here to do.
Oregon voters have spoken loud and clear about their priorities. They want us to close tax breaks for the rich and to make our tax code fairer for the middle class. I hear this routinely at coffee meetings from constituents in all parts of my district. Democrats hold a slight majority in both chambers, but Oregon’s Constitution requires a supermajority to pass revenue raising bills. That leaves lot of questions unanswered.
Can we rein in tax breaks to strengthen education funding? We still have an opportunity to take action to strengthen budgets for schools. To date, Republicans have blocked any revenue for schools from moving forward.
Will we be able to provide health care and long term services for senior citizens? By renewing existing assessments that support hospitals and nursing homes, HB 2216 would bring in $2 billion(much of it coming from the federal government) to cover services for senior citizens and hospital patients, and protect and create thousands of jobs in the healthcare industry. But despite receiving broad bipartisan support from the state House, Senate Republicans are holding up that bill in the name of partisan political games.
Can we give schools the stability and certainty they need? Senate Bill 5519 would begin to turn the corner and stop the recent disinvestment in education by allocating $6.55 billion to school districts in addition to $200 million in PERS savings we created with the passage of SB 822 That is $1 billion more than the budget passed in 2011,. But Senate Republicans are blocking that bill too.
All of these questions are still up in the air because Senate Republicans are using the equivalent of the filibuster to obstruct important bills from passing. We could help schools reduce class sizes, support our medical sector, and make our tax code fairer for the middle class. But Senate Republicans have chosen partisanship over solving our state’s problems. I will continue to work for honest solutions, and to make Oregon a better place to live.
At the end of a session things can move very fast. By the time you read this we may have resolved some of these problems, or not … stay tuned.
During the legislative sessions Rep. Phil Barnhart can be found at the Oregon State Capitol, Salem, (503)986-1411, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down rulings on two cases involving same-sex marriage Wednesday, June 26, and a Eugene rally is being planned at 5 pm at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza at 8th and Oak. Other rallies are happening tomorrow in Portland and Ashland. The rallies are being planned by the ACLU of Oregon and Oregon United for Marriage. Portland contact is Amy Ruiz, (503) 929-1036.
One of several videos from a recent City Club program on affordable housing.
Paul Cienfuegos was in Eugene this week and will speak at the Florence Public Library this evening (June 14) from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.
It appears talks between District 4J and the Eugene Education Association (EEA) ended early this morning with little progress after nine hours. No further talks are scheduled.
“The District continued to propose unacceptable changes to leadership language and barely moved on key financial issues,” says a statement from the EEA at 2:15 am today (June 11). “The District proposed 10 furlough days (a 5 percent pay cut), one of which would have been paid for out of insurance reserves. The District also offered no cost-of-living increase and half steps for members who are step-eligible.”
The EEA has recently offered a 0.8 percent COLA and full step increases, along with a $25 per member per month insurance contribution, also to be paid out of reserves.
“The District seems unwilling to look hard at its own spending priorities such as $350,000 to remodel the Ed Center auditorium, the continuation of costly conferences, and expensive consultants.”
Teachers have complained about the hiring of Massachusetts consultant Jon Saphier who was reportedly paid $290,000 last year and about $215,000 this year. The mandatory “Welcome Back Breakfast” at the Hilton at the beginning of this school year cost a reported $25,000 and some teachers have complained that it had no value. On Saphier’s website it says, “In recent years he has led large-scale district improvement projects forging working alliances between superintendents, union leaders, and school boards.”
Adding to the strife is resistance by teachers to a common high school schedule to be imposed next fall by Superintendent Shelly Berman and the 4J School Board.
In case you missed it June 8.
From Doug Perry, the assistant fire marshall today:
"With the approaching Independence Day holiday, fire and city of Eugene officials are considering restrictions on the use of fireworks. These restrictions may include a ban on fireworks use in the South Hills and Spencer, Skinner and Willagillespie Buttes as well as limiting the dates fireworks may be discharged in the remainder of the city. A decision on these possible restrictions will be made by June 24.
"Fireworks that fly, explode, travel more than one foot into the air or more than six feet on the ground are already AGAINST THE LAW in Oregon. Illegal fireworks cause countless injuries and thousands of dollars in property loss each year. "
The fire marshall's office can be reached at 682-5887.
The next Conestoga hut will be assembled at 9 am Friday, June 7, at First Baptist Church, 1175 G St. in Springfield. See Activist Alert in our June 6 issue.
Heidi Tunnell is expanding her catering business into a bakery and restaurant in Creswell. See Biz Beat this Thursday (June 6) for details.