State of the States
School Aid Not Enough, Kulongoski Concedes
As Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski emphasized the connection between a strong precollegiate education system and a strong state economy, he also acknowledged in his State of the State Address that his recommendations for K-12 funding in the new biennium were not enough.
Strengthening Oregon’s education system is the “most important measure of the state of our state,” Gov. Kulongoski said in his 37-minute speech in front of a joint session of the House and Senate on Jan. 10. But his austere budget plan for the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years didn’t exempt schools from feeling a fiscal pinch, especially after voters rejected two temporary tax increases in two years.
The Democratic governor recommended $6.4 billion for schools in the new biennium, an increase of 2.4 percent over the current two-year budget. The plan includes $5 billion for aid to school districts.
“I’ve been asked many times … if giving $5 billion, 45 percent of the state general fund, to K through 12 education is adequate,” Gov. Kulongoski said. “The answer is no. But it is all we can afford, given our current revenues.”
The governor said he wants the state education department to become more effective by introducing an electronic data system to track student progress, and he favors a statewide health-insurance pool for school employees to replace the 198 systems now in place.
Vol. 24, Issue 20, Pages 24-25