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OSBA presses for bill to force Quality Education Model funding

  Sam Dow (left) and Sammie Huffman joined Coquille School District Superintendent Tim Sweeney on Monday to tell the House Education Committee about the need for school counselors, which have been essential to their success. Without more funding, counseling could be cut at Coquille. (Photo by Rep. Sherrie Sprenger)

An OSBA priority for this session, House Joint Resolution 4, was heard early this week by the House Education Committee. OSBA Executive Director Jim Green went straight to the point Monday, telling the committee about the need for a new resolution.

“What House Joint Resolution 4 is designed to do is to tell you all to fund the Quality Education Model,” Green testified.

Under a ballot measure passed by voters, since 2001 state law has required the Legislature to appropriate in each biennium enough money to meet the Quality Education Model. As interpreted by court rulings, the Legislature can alternatively publish a report that says why the state couldn’t fund to the model.

Oregon has never funded to the model, and so each biennium the Legislature writes such a report.

“I’ve read these reports every two years, and they change the dates to say we don’t have the money to fund it,” Green said.

Green laid out some of the ideals in the model for curriculum, class time, class size, support services and full-time specialist teachers. Most Oregon schools fall far short in all areas. Green pointed out that in a recent OSBA poll, 66 percent of Oregonians support amending the constitution to require funding the QEM.

“OSBA’s top legislative priority is adequate and stable education funding,” testified Betty Reynolds, OSBA board president. “House Joint Resolution 4 is one element of our proposal to fully fund Oregon’s Quality Education Model.”

HJR 4 removes the law’s language about writing a report, essentially reducing the law to “the Legislative Assembly shall appropriate in each biennium a sum of money sufficient to ensure that the state’s system of public education meets quality goals established by law.”

“We need more,” testified Tim Sweeney, superintendent of Coquille School District.

Sweeney, who appeared with Coquille High students Sam Dow and Sammie Huffman, explained that the district has done great things, particularly in early education, but that short budgets are taking a toll in the education and services offered, especially at the high school level.

The two students told their stories of trauma-related needs and working with school counselors and nurses.  With proposed funding at $8.02 billion, counseling in Coquille could disappear completely along with several other programs. Dow went to the Legislature to ask for additional support not only for herself but for students who need that extra assistance outside the classroom and, in particular, for students who are in foster care programs.

Morgan Allen, deputy executive director of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, said that when adjusted for inflation, Oregon has not increased per-student spending since 1991. Allen showed a correlation between statistics on low spending and poor student achievement relative to other states.

“There is absolutely a relationship between investment and outcomes,” said Allen.