The 2019-21 budget Gov. Kate Brown proposed recently includes a proposed increase in spending on K-12 education of $2 billion more than the $8.1 billion spent in the ongoing biennium.
And a state legislative committee has proposed a wish list of $3.5 billion in new education spending that the state Legislature will consider in the session starting Jan. 22.
A report for the Joint Committee on Student Success presented at the committee's Dec. 13 meeting included an analysis of the cost of adding the recommendations to the 2019-21 budget, including adding 10 days to the school year for $516 million; reductions in class sizes for $370 million; and funding more elementary school specialists, like art, music, physical education teachers and counselors, for $250 million.
While the state would need to generate more revenue to fund the overlapping proposals, education officials in the region have expressed support for the possibility of more funding for Oregon public schools, which in federal studies consistently have among the worst on-time graduation rates in the country.
Melissa Goff, Philomath's superintendent of schools, said she was pleased with the governor’s budget proposal.
Goff said her priority is that proposed increases in funding for kindergarten through third grade give the district’s some flexibility in how they spend it, rather than just targeting class size. By hiring behavioral specialists and highly trained instructional assistants, a class can effectively be smaller than if districts are just tasked with reducing student-teacher ratios.
For example, Goff said hiring a full-time counselor for the 175 students at Clemens Primary School caused behavioral incidents at the school to drop by 85 percent.
“Smaller class sizes are beneficial, but smaller class sizes will never be enough alone,” she said.
Goff said funding that would allow districts to try to do more to remove barriers for students.
“We want to create wrap-around support for our students,” she said.
Goff also said that in Philomath increased investment in career and technical education is a priority, so the state should fully fund Measure 98.
Goff added that she hopes the Legislature can make these investments without taking resources from things the schools are already doing.
Goff said she will be meeting with legislators in January.
“We want to make it clear our support for the investments that have been made here,” she said.