SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) – Legislative leaders in Oregon released a conservative budget framework asking for cuts across nearly all state programs except education and healthcare.
Still, critics say the state’s education budget plan for the 2019-2021 biennium released on Thursday isn’t nearly enough.
The proposed budget sets aside $8.87 billion and doesn’t include any cuts for the state’s K-12 system. But the Oregon Education Association said that allowance is still nearly $2 billion short of what is needed to maintain services and account for increases in pension and other employee benefits. As such, the OEA said the proposal could result in up to 900 layoffs.
“This budget fails students and is impossibly out of touch,” said John Larson with OEA.
Notably, the proposed education budget doesn’t doesn’t include the $200 million increase for education requested by Gov. Kate Brown.
“This is my 5th year of watching time and time again as lawmakers in Salem fail to fund our schools after decades of disinvestment,” said teacher Nichole Watson.
Lawmakers said they were able to scrounge up an extra $100 million through a tax on recreational marijuana. They added that education should be prioritized while other state program expenditures should be allotted based on their short-term and long-term outcomes.
“We recognize that this budget will still end up with deficits for many of our school districts,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, another co-chair of the budgetary committee. “We don’t like it and yet we’re constrained to the resources we have available.”
State leaders said Oregon continues to face a deficit — one that will only worsen in the coming years. But Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadelupe Guerrero said lawmakers said now isn’t the time to be tight-fisted with education funds.
“At a time when we need bold action from our state leaders, this proposed budget just doesn’t measure up,” said Guerrero. “It forces us, yet again, to make tough decisions given the limited and inadequate resources from the state. Our students deserve better. Oregon deserves better.”
Lawmakers are expected to finalize and vote on a budget package by the end of June.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.