by Kent Hunsaker, Executive Director
Education advocates presented four hours of testimony at a Joint Ways and Means Committee hearing last night, imploring members to use the Education Stability Fund to fill the 2007-09 budget shortfall for Oregon's K-12 schools.
South Lane Superintendent Krista Parent and Beaverton Chief Financial Officer Claire Hertz described the financial challenges their districts face if the legislature doesn't tap the Education Stability Fund for the current biennium. Their message was echoed by school board members, teachers, classified employees and parents from around the state.
Here is Krista's testimony and Claire's presentation. My testimony is pasted below. Each speaker was limited to three minutes, which was challenging, to say the least -- we all had a lot more to say than the alloted time allowed.
Testimony to the Joint Ways and Means Committee
February 11, 2009
"Co-Chair Carter, members of the committee. My name is Kent Hunsaker, Executive Director of COSA. I want to thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. I have provided you with a one-page handout entitled 'A Pathway for Funding Schools in 2007-09.'
You have indicated that you are seeking information on the impact of a proposed 5% BI-ENNIAL reduction in state funding. First of all, 5% sounds small, but when you consider it is a BI-ENNIAL reduction with only 4 months or 1/6 of the biennium remaining, it is equivalent to a 30% reduction in state funding.
It is important to note that schools already reduced $61.2 million in November. As a result of that reduction school districts have frozen spending, instituted hiring freezes, reduced reserves and already several districts have shortened the school year, including Ashland, Cottage Grove, Lincoln County, Reynolds and South Umpqua.
If the next wave of reductions is 4 or 5 times larger, then most, if not all school districts will face early closure of school.
Given the reality of imminent school closure, we urge you to fill the projected shortfall with the Education Stability Fund. The fund was established in September 2002 by a vote of the people, hence it is constitutional. The Oregon Constitution states that the fund is to be used “for the public purpose of financing public education in Oregon.” Previous Legislative Sessions have used the fund on 2 occasions, in a June 2002 special session and a 2003 regular session, transferring a total of $272 million to the state school fund.
The Education Stability Fund currently contains $393M. If the reduction to fill the shortfall turned out to be 5% of biennial revenue, you could fill the $205M gap and still have a substantial amount remaining.
Why Tap the ESF?
- It ensures a full school year for Oregon’s children.
- It ensures that Oregon’s grade 12 students will be able to graduate.
- It prevents cuts in services to Oregon’s neediest children, including breakfast and lunch programs for over 200,000 students.
- It impacts jobs and the local economy of every Oregon community, as you can see on the other side of our handout.
- It gives districts time to make the best possible choices for the future, rather be left with no choice but to cut days.
Thanks again for the opportunity to advocate for Oregon’s School Children and a full year of school for them."