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Budget town halls need to hear voices for education spending

By Richard Donovan, legislative specialist

The Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee has announced the final dates and locations for town hall meetings, creating an opportunity for school board members statewide.

“The upcoming budget-focused town halls are a chance for every school board member to tell legislators that they need to fully fund K-12 education in Oregon,” said OSBA Interim Director of Legislative Services Lori Sattenspiel.

A $1.8 billion shortfall in the state budget means tough decisions will have to be made, whether that’s figuring out how to raise tax revenue or picking which programs and departments get the ax.

The committee co-chairs, Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Nancy Nathanson, released a budget framework Jan. 19 to begin the discussion. That budget allots $7.8 billion to K-12 education. School business officials have calculated that schools need $8.4 billion to maintain current service, and the Oregon Rising campaign is focusing efforts on ensuring that funding does not dip below that level.

“Allocating $7.8 billion to the State School Fund means a cuts budget for almost every district in the state,” Sattenspiel said. “Legislators need to hear that from school board members. They need to hear that Oregon can’t take another cuts budget for the upcoming biennium.”

The committee is offering the public a chance to weigh in without having to come to the Capitol. Starting Feb. 10, town halls will be held in seven cities: Salem, Portland, Hermiston, Madras, Ashland, Eugene and Tillamook.

“A $7.8 billion state school fund allocation will hurt Oregon schools and Oregon students,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green. “To avoid punishing cuts to district budgets, the conversation about K-12 funding should begin at $8.4 billion. Legislators need to hear that, and these town meetings are when we can make sure school board member voices are heard.”

Members of the 23-person committee will attend each session. Local legislators and officials will likely attend too. Sign-up sheets before the meetings will include a request for topic, and each speaker gets three minutes. The chairperson will mostly call people in order, but if several speakers address the same topic, the chairperson may skip ahead to include more issues.

“If you want to testify, the best thing to do is to get there early,” said Lynn Buchanan, administrative support for the Legislative Fiscal Office.

Testimony can also be submitted by email.

The town hall schedule:

Feb. 10 – Salem     
5-7 p.m.
Hearing Room F
Oregon State Capitol
900 Court Street NE
Feb. 11 – Portland      
12-2 p.m.
Main Mall, Amo DeBernardis CC Building
PCC, Sylvania campus
12000 SW 49th Avenue
Feb. 17 – Hermiston    
5-7 p.m.
Main Commons
Hermiston High School
600 S First Street
Feb. 18 – Madras
1-3 p.m.
Performing Arts Center
Madras High School
390 SE 10th Street
Feb. 24 – Ashland
5-7 p.m.
Rogue River Room
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Feb. 25 – Eugene 
1-3 p.m.
Rooms 308-309 Building 17 (The Forum)
Lane Community College
4000 E 30th Avenue
March 3 – Tillamook          
6-8 p.m.
Officer’s Mess
Port of Tillamook Bay
6825 Officers Row