Budget & Finance

Oregon Rejects Tax Hike That Would Have Helped Schools

By Rhea R. Borja — February 05, 2003 2 min read

After months of belt-tightening amid the state’s worst recession in 50 years, Oregon schools lost out on a potential infusion of $95 million when voters last week soundly rejected a proposal for a temporary, three-year increase in state income taxes.

Measure 28, as the tax plan was known, was defeated 55 percent to 45 percent at the polls on Jan. 28. The measure would have pumped an estimated $313 million into the state’s slim coffers by raising personal income taxes by half of 1 percent and corporate income taxes by a proportionate amount. The money would have bolstered funding for education, law enforcement, and social services.

School districts across the state reported last week that they were considering lopping days, and even entire weeks, off the school year. Other cost-saving measures under consideration included increasing class sizes and laying off teachers.

“Our weakest and most vulnerable populations are being impacted, and that includes children,” said Kristine Kain, the president of the 45,000-member Oregon Education Association. “We always liked to think that Oregon is a special place, but now we’re special for all of the wrong reasons.”

Opponents of Measure 28, however, hailed its defeat as a victory for taxpayers. Voters are tired of the government wasting their money, said Jason D. Williams, the executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, a group based in Portland.

“There’s been mismanagement to the tune of billions,” he said. “The people said, ‘Hey, we’re not giving you any more money. Stop punishing us for you not balancing the budget with fiscal restraint.’”

School Year Chopped

Oregon is striving to weather its worst economic downturn since World War II. As a result, the state’s $12 billion budget for fiscal 2003 has been cut by more than $1 billion—$273.2 million of that from K-12 funding. The effect is that the state’s school spending has fallen by 10.3 percent this fiscal year.

The 53,000-student Portland school district was in line to receive $9 million to help make up for deep cuts to its budget, which now stands at $342 million, if Measure 28 had passed. But now it may have to slash 24 days or more—up from 15 as had been earlier announced—from the school year.

“The rest of the country is going to question our commitment to education,” said Lew Frederick, the system’s public information director. “We cut to the bone years ago. Now we’re cutting off limbs.”

Oregon districts have been nipping and tucking their budgets for years. The passage of Measure 5 in 1990, which capped local property taxes, meant that school systems went from being financed primarily at the local level to mostly being dependent on the state. So now when the state’s economy heads south, school system budgets typically do, too.

Districts such as Salem-Keizer have established rainy-day funds to better cope with fiscal emergencies. Superintendent Kay Baker, who helps oversee a $17 million rainy-day fund for her 37,000-student district, said she has had to withdraw $11 million from the fund this year to shore up the district’s $239 million budget. Even so, Salem-Keizer has cut four days off the school year, and will likely make more cuts, she said.

“Everybody’s saying, ‘Now what do we do?’,” she said. “It’s been really hard.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Student Well-Being Online Summit Student Mental Health
Attend this summit to learn what the data tells us about student mental health, what schools can do, and best practices to support students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Budget & Finance FEMA Is Spending Billions on Pandemic Relief. How Schools Can Get More of It
The agency is offering reimbursements to schools for pandemic-related purchases they've been using after Jan. 21, 2021.
5 min read
Des Moines Public Schools Admin Support Coordinator Sarah Holland installs a plexiglass shield in the office at Oak Park Elementary School on July 30, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Des Moines Public Schools Admin Support Coordinator Sarah Holland installs a plexiglass shield in the office at Oak Park Elementary School on July 30, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP
Budget & Finance Will FEMA Reimburse Schools for COVID-Related Costs? Here's What We Know
Numerous school districts are getting millions of dollars less than they expected from the feds for pandemic-related emergency costs.
10 min read
Image is an illustration of a school receiving financial aid.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: E+, Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty)
Budget & Finance How School Districts Plan to Spend $130 Billion in Federal Stimulus Money
Schools will soon receive an influx of federal funds. Special education training, technology improvements, and facilities upgrades are on the shopping list.
4 min read
Image shows lots of cash. Rolls of dollars lay flat on a light blue background.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Budget & Finance A Windfall, Teacher Shortages, and Uncertain Enrollments Shape Next Year's K-12 Budgets
School finance officers from across the nation describe the unique challenges of managing their money one year into the pandemic.
11 min read