Governor Kate Brown and legislative leaders strike deal on schools budget
Governor Kate Brown and key lawmakers have found common ground on increasing funding for K-12 schools in Oregon, after a strong disagreement emerged earlier in the week.
In a statement Friday, Brown’s office said the governor now agrees with House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate Speaker Peter Courtney, D-Salem, that the state is expected to budget $ 9.3 billion in the state’s main school fund over the next two years. .
That is less than the $ 9.6 billion that school officials and Republican lawmakers have called for this year. But that’s about $ 300 million more than what budget workers say it would take to fully fund schools at current service levels. It’s also $ 200 million more than Brown’s proposed budget for K-12 education.
This difference has led to notable tensions between three of the state’s top Democrats. On Monday, Brown sent a scathing letter to Kotek and Courtney suggesting that their plan to withdraw $ 200 million from a state reserve fund in order to reach their budget was unconstitutional and risked leaving disadvantaged students behind.
“You may be willing to wait another two years for fair reforms – to once again promise communities of color that we will do it right ‘next time,’” Brown wrote. “I’m not.”
Today, four days later, Brown’s office says a deal has been made.
“The governor appreciates that she, the president and the president can have open, honest and sometimes controversial discussions, even when they do not all immediately agree …” said Charles Boyle, deputy director of communications of the governor, in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects the consensus on funding for public schools.”
All that is clear from Brown’s announcement is the dollar amount. It’s still unclear whether lawmakers will seek to take that money out of reserves – which Brown says would be illegal, but lawmakers believe it’s a fair game – or whether a new revenue forecast that is due to be released this week. next will increase the additional $ 200 million. . While the details of this forecast are unclear, officials have suggested that lottery and income tax receipts may be higher than expected.
It is also uncertain how lawmakers could spend the extra money to address the disparities and impacts of COVID-19 on underserved student populations, as Brown demanded in his letter. “In the coming days, the governor’s office and lawmakers will work with education officials and leaders of communities of color to identify concrete actions to be taken in partnership with school districts to achieve these urgent goals,”
The announcement came hours after the Legislative Ways and Means Committee passed a schools budget containing the full $ 9.3 billion of the Senate. At the same meeting, the committee relied on one element of that proposal: a bill that would have authorized lawmakers to withdraw $ 200 million from the state’s Education Stability Fund, the pool of cash reserves supposed to be tapped during recessions to avoid budget cuts.
Republican lawmakers on Friday again sought to send $ 9.6 billion to the state’s education fund.
Oregon schools “have struggled to come out of the bottom,” House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, said at the meeting. “I worry all year round: what is COVID doing to this? I don’t understand why we wouldn’t do everything we can.
State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, Portland Democrat and Budget Co-Chair, said funding for a new business tax, federal aid and other priorities actually reflected around $ 12 billion in spending for students.