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2019 Legislative Report – COSA Members Help to Ensure Session Marks New Chapter for Oregon’s Schools
The 2019 Legislative Session, by any measure, was the best session for K-12 public education in a generation. Highlighted by the work of the Joint Committee on Student Success and the passage of the Student Success Act (House Bill 3427), Oregon will invest $1 billion per year into the PreK-12 education system to start to address funding problems that have plagued Oregon schools for decades. This investment is in addition to a State School Fund allocation of $9 billion, a nearly ten percent increase from last biennium.
The COSA/OSBA Legislative Report is a key resource to glean information about new laws passed during the 2019 Legislative Session impacting the personnel, operations, programs and finances of school districts, education services districts, charter schools and community colleges. But to understand why 2019 marks a new chapter for Oregon’s schools, we have to look back almost 30 years.
On November 6, 1990, Oregonians approved Ballot Measure 5, an initiative that dramatically altered Oregon’s property tax system and made school funding primarily a state responsibility. Voters were assured that state government would pick up the tab for dollars lost at the local level, but state support never fully covered the needs, and Oregon students have felt the impact for nearly 30 years.
During the three decades since Measure 5 passed, COSA and other K-12 supporters have advocated at the Legislature for increased school funding. Some years, we were able to secure “Current Service Level” budgets to preserve the status quo. Due to Oregon’s dependence on notoriously volatile income tax collections to provide the bulk of funding for our schools, most years, we were not so lucky. Districts across Oregon cut teaching and administrative positions, school days, and programs while our students paid the price in lost opportunities. But that narrative is about to change.
When the Student Success Act begins to provide funding to our schools, in the 20-21 school year, Oregon’s K-12 funding will approach a level long considered by many to be a pipe dream – the funding level described by the Quality Education Model.
By focusing on equity and meeting the needs of historically underserved students, the investment from the Student Success Act will change the lives of tens of thousands of students across Oregon. It will empower districts to engage with their communities in a collaborative manner to meet the needs of all students by offering a more a more well-rounded education, investing in the social, emotional and, mental health needs of our students, offering more learning time, and decreasing class sizes.
While funding is important, connection to policies that address equity, impact student achievement, and free local educators from one-size-fits-all directives are just as critical. Time and again throughout the session, legislators were focused on the needs of all students across a variety of topics, from school lunches to student safety to social and emotional health issues. Policy bills passed during the 2019 Session were reasonable and created in collaboration with K-12 advocates. Coupled with the Legislature addressing funding, revenue reform and cost containment, 2019 was hands-down the best and most productive session for K-12 education in more than 30 years.
Most importantly we want to acknowledge the efforts of COSA members. We want to thank the many, superintendents and administrators who engaged, time and again, year after year, in our quest for school funding. We want to thank every COSA member who talked with or wrote to a legislator, who participated in an Oregon Rising meeting or legislative workgroup, who went to a legislative hearing or town hall, who attended a lobby day, and who never gave up on our quest to change the narrative about our K-12 system.
In the same way that Measure 5 had an outsized impact on Oregon’s public education system for decades, the passage of the Student Success Act will mark the beginning of a new chapter for Oregon’s schools. We are excited to help our members implement this bill and positively impact the lives of the next generation of Oregon students.
Craig Hawkins, Executive Director
Morgan Allen, Deputy Ex. Dir. Of Policy and Advocacy
Ben Bowman, Legislative Affairs Specialist