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Inadequate House K-12 Budget is Lobbed at the Senate Chamber

Representative Mary Nolan is a third term legislator representing SW Portland.Mary_nolan_1

We kicked off Memorial Day Weekend with yet another contentious debate over school funding. House Republicans rose up one by one on the House Floor in support of House Bill 5092 (carried by Rep. Morgan, R of Myrtle Creek) - a call to hurry up and under-fund our children’s future!

Not surprisingly this funding debate was decided in a manner all too similar to the others: along party lines. This bill was lobbed over to the Senate with 32 Republican AYE votes – only 1 had the guts to stand up for what we all know is right.

Funding our public K-12 schools at anything less than $5.4 billion is robbing Oregon students of their future. As Democrat Arnie Roblan (D - Coos Bay) said, “this budget means shattered dreams, because it does not support the caliber of education that our children must have if they are to find productive, meaningful work in this highly competitive new world.”

Do not be fooled! In its current form, HB 5092 falls $180 million short of the identified K-12 “survival budget.” This bill will cut even more school days from what is already the shortest school year in the nation!

The Republican bill allocates only $5.22 billion from the State’s discretionary funds over the next biennium. But the bill pretends to claim credit for monies from the Common School Fund that the legislature does not control.

Here's what the bill actually allocates to schools:

State General Fund, to the Dept of Education, & specifically for State School Fund
$4,923 million

State Lottery Fund, to the Dept of Education, & specifically for State School Fund
$296 million

State Timber Tax Collection, to the Dept of Ed & specifically for State School Fund
$1 million

$5,220 million

As you may have noticed, $55 million from the Common School Fund is NOT listed in this table. The Republicans have cunningly included this money in the debate over school funding. It is revenue collected from assets held in trust for schools since statehood, such as state forests and the river beds of navigable rivers in the state. This money is collected, invested, and redistributed to each of Oregon’s counties on a per-student basis automatically.

The language of this bill also included appropriations for Oregon’s 17 Community Colleges. A total of $439 million from the General Fund will ostensibly allow Community Colleges to maintain – and even restore – some services for their student population. Often overlooked, this was a success for Community Colleges and every Oregonian who seeks to improve his or her life by enrolling. Despite beating the Governor’s proposed Community College budget by 12 percent we still have to consider that this figure may not be the final figure as budget negotiations are now at hand.

To be sure, since neither the House nor the Senate Chambers can presently return to their caucus and say, “we have the concurrence of the other chamber,” we will still have to return to some form of conference committee to reconcile these two sides. There is a real possibility that we could lose this 12% edge for our Community Colleges – or even more. Beyond that, how much of this already lacking public K-12 budget is going to be negotiated away?

By forcing passage of HB 5092, the House Republicans have told Oregon’s children that we won’t do right by them – and not because we weren’t able, but because we chose not to.

May 31, 2005 by Mary Nolan
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Thank you, Ms. Nolan, for telling me that the House passed a 5.22 billion dollars education budget.
I am interested in that fact, and since I no longer bother to read the newspaper, but rely upon blogs for news, you have edified me.
I note that you adduce no specific reason for your many value judgements in your report; they may be eminently justifed, but no supprt for them is given in your report.
Nonetheless I remain in your debt for the factual content.

Posted by: Michael Meo | Jun 1, 2005 8:34:37 PM

It's always about "more money" with you supposed education supporters, isn't it?

Take the Portland Public Schools for example: if they spend an average of $10,000 a year per student and there's around 28 kids per classroom, you have $280,000 a year spent per classroom. After $75K a year is subtracted for the teacher's salary and bennies, you're still spending $200,000 a year!!

Where is all this money going? I think $200,000 a year per classroom is *way* more than enough for rent, heat, lights and water.

The school budget shouldn't be raised one penny until schools are held accountable.

Posted by: Chris McMullen | Jun 2, 2005 4:53:27 PM


I respectfully and completely disagree with your reply to Representative Nolan's post on the House Democrat's blog, and I encourage you to contact the PPS to obtain a copy of their school budget document. I further urge you to attend your school district budget committee sessions (meetings and public work sessions if they have any) and all of your school board meetings.

By the statement "where is the money going" it is obvious to me that you have not taken the time to completely educate yourself about your school district's current and true financial situation and that you have failed to study your school district budget.

School budgets are highly complicated, and your figure of a missing $200K from classrooms is dead wrong.

For example, have you ever given a thought about the cost of services outside of the classroom, but that are required for many children, such as busing? How much does busing cost? Does your school district purchase buses or lease them or use an outside contractor? What are the costs involved with these? Diesel went from one of the most affordable fuels to one of the most expensive. Was this a budgeted item or was money moved from a contingency fund to cover this unexpected raised cost? Drivers are required to take drug tests. Those cost money. Would you deny the schools that expense, or would you put innocent drivers and children at risk to drivers who are using drugs?

I am by no means attempting to answer your question about your perceived missing $200K per classroom, I am merely attempting to provide you with some insight and examples of expenses that the average person does not take into consideration when they are complaining about the "education supporters" requests for adequate school funding.

Please, I urge you to educate yourself before you attempt to bless others with your opinion.

Best Regards,
Corinne, a PTA mom and classroom volunteer

Posted by: Corinne | Jun 2, 2005 9:57:06 PM


It's obvious to me you have a tendency to jump to conclusions.

You have no idea whether I've attended budget sessions or studied school expenses (which, BTW, I have), you just assume I'm ignorant about school processes because I dared to be skeptical about their never-ending demand for more money.

PERS has become an enormous expenditure for all public agencies and is the real reason expenses have skyrocketed:


Private schools are able to turn out excellent students at half the cost of their public counterpart. And, it's not busing costs that make up the other half for public schools, it's the unattainable retirement system implemented and supported by people like Ms. Nolan.

As an aside, PPS transportation costs per student is around $300. That's only an additional $8400 per classroom -- now we're at $190K.

And, if *you* are so well educated in school budget processes, why cant you answer where the other $190K is going?

Posted by: chris mcmullen | Jun 3, 2005 10:59:35 AM

How Many Hundreds Of Millions Of $$$$ Do The Schools Spend On Educating Illegal Immigrants!!

Posted by: Scott Porter | Jun 3, 2005 2:55:21 PM

Chris -
I'll try not to jump to conclusions on you, but I guess I don't understand why you approach the situation from a hostile viewpoint rather than one where you want to understand what's going on or raise concerns or whatever.

In a short post, I obviously cannot address all of your concerns, nor is it my place to try and do so - I can tell you some of what I know. First of all, the proposed budget for student transportation services for 2005-06 is $16.4M. If you figure 45,000 kids, so that cost per student is closer to $365/child (minor but an additional almost $3M). That's really not the point though - what do we spend our money on? How about:
- counselors
- art, music, and PE teachers
- social workers
- special education teachers and assistants
- ESL teachers
- Health services/school nurses
- Librarians
- Career guidance (High School)
- Speech therapists
- Staff Development
- Local school administration (principal, secretary(s), janitors, etc.)
- Building maintenance and utilities
- Technology (computers, copiers, faxes, phones, etc.)
- Student food services
- Local school supplies (paper, pencils, crayons, books, etc.)
- Local school furnishings (chairs, desks, lunch tables, risers, etc.)

Now, this doesn't even go past the local school to the central administration. I would guess that you are not suggesting that an organization with 6,000 employees and 45,000 kids not have a central office. Even conservative commentator George Will recently wrote that school districts need to spend 65% of their budgets directly on their schools, teachers, students - apart from central admin. In PPS, we spend nearly 90% on schools. To the point where the independent group (The Annenburg (sp?) Institute) recently found that we had some gross shortfalls at the central level and strongly recommended beefing some of those services up. Specifically, PPS has not had a central curriculum group for some time - that is budgeted for this year.

That is obviously not an exhaustive list of everything, but it is an idea of the array of services that are necessary for running a large urban school district. I am want those services for my daughter, and every other son an daughter in the schools. Now, that is not to say that we don't have work to do getting a better grasp on PERS and I believe we also need better language allowing us to reopen our CBA with teachers during drastic budget cuts. That said, I believe that teachers are grossly underpaid with regards to the importance of their role in our society.

Thanks for listening.

PS: I am on PPS' Citizen's Budget Committee - if you have such a strong interest, I urge you to join that group and have your voice heard. There is definitely room for differing opinions and there are voices such as yours who do serve.

Posted by: Doug Wells | Jun 3, 2005 3:13:50 PM


From my first post: I am by no means attempting to answer your question about your perceived missing $200K per classroom, I am merely attempting to provide you with some insight and examples of expenses that the average person does not take into consideration when they are complaining about the "education supporters" requests for adequate school funding.

*I* am not educated on the PPS budget, nor did I ever claim to be. My children attend school in Hillsboro, and I am more in tune with what is going on here.

The point of my reply to you is that there are more expenses per student than the teacher's salary and benefits, and that most non-school-supporters refuse to acknowledge the added expenses in their talking points.

Posted by: Corinne | Jun 3, 2005 3:55:28 PM


How do you arrive at the conclusion that "teachers are grossly underpaid with regard to the importance of their role in our society"?

How is "importance of role" measured? Should it continue to be the same for all of a district's teachers who are paid according to the same wage scale?

What do you think is an adequate wage? Would you increase that wage by 20% if the Oregon school year is increased to 220 days in accordance with the Education Act For the Twenty First Century?

Which is the higher priority; raising K-12 teacher pay or adequately funding Head Start to give 100% instead of 50% of at-risk kids the opportunity to start kindergarten with sufficient cultural literacy to have a productive K-12 experience?

Posted by: gus | Jun 3, 2005 4:51:16 PM

Let me start by stating that I know and believe that the answers aren't simple - I don't believe in black and white, this or that answers. I believe we need to compensate teachers better, and I believe we need to provide adequate funding for head start, and I believe that we need to provide adequate funding for special education (and I believe that the federal govt, if they pass something like IDEA saying that they'll pay 40% of special ed costs should do so, not 15-20%).

Do I want my cake and eat it too - I suppose so. I think that education needs to be the kind of priority that we all say it is when we vote for politicians, or when politicians run for office. That means I think we need to have a sales tax on the table to consider. That means that the corporate minimum tax needs to be way above $10. That means that we shouldn't pay people to gather carts at Home Depot more than we pay an educational assistant in our public schools. Teachers not only manage 20, 25, 30, or more students, they manage our future! We deserve to have high expectations of them, and they deserve to be compensated well given the importance of what they do. I find their job way more important to me than a stock trader who makes ten times what they do, or a manager of a bank, or a insurance agent, or an attorney, or a carpenter. I'm not saying those folks don't deserve a good living - I'm just making the point.

Posted by: Doug Wells | Jun 3, 2005 9:56:24 PM


I agree that "there are no simple answers." I strongly suggest that people should give substantial thought to the "beliefs" they utter. For instance "grossly underpaid teachers" (yours) "(teachers)paid like chumps" (a teacher responding to the first Mary Nolan post).

As a member of PPS' Citizen's Budget Committee you should also bear in mind that there are around 28,000 public school teachers in Oregon compensated on the basis of seniority, degree level and additional credits. There is little to be gained from comparing teacher wages to smaller numbers of stock brokers, lawyers or doctors who survive and are compensated at various levels depending on the results they deliver.

Posted by: gus | Jun 4, 2005 10:56:16 AM

Gus -
I put quite substantial thought into my comments. If you disagree with my conclusion, that's fine - more power to you.

I believe that when people try to boil down large, intricate, detailed budgets into cutting PERS, or teachers salaries - then I do believe there is gain in looking at how educators are paid with relation to others in our society. I think we have to make room in our budgeting to look at salaries and benefits - and I still believe that educators are underpaid and undervalued. I would not look to those line items to find cuts. Rather, I would look to inadequate revenue as our main problem (I can only speak to my knowledge in Portland).

Posted by: Doug Wells | Jun 5, 2005 9:34:45 PM


I neither agree nor disagree with your conclusions as they are based only on your opinions.

Posted by: gus | Jun 6, 2005 10:56:01 AM

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Thanks for the article. it was motivating!

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