Governor’s proposed budget mostly positive

POLK COUNTY — Gov. Kate Brown’s $20.8 billion outline for the state’s 2017-19 budget included a little more than $8 billion for K-12 education.

That’s a 9 percent increase over the current two-year budget for schools, and is intended to support current service levels, including providing for increased costs in the Public Employees Retirement System.

“We will see how that stands up during the legislative session, but it’s a good place to begin,” said Tami Montague, Dallas School District’s business manager.

Brown’s budget assumes a $1.7 billion shortfall, which her budget fills with a combination of cuts and revenue increases. Lawmakers will have their say in the state’s biennial budget when the legislative session opens in February.

“We’ll wait and see what will happen, don’t know how they will backfill that,” Montague said.

She said education groups say Brown’s figure for K-12 isn’t enough to keep the status quo.

“Our best information from advocacy groups for K-12 education is saying we need about $8.5 billion,” Montague said.

Measure 98, which created separate funding for career and technical education programs and attempts to increase graduation rates, is given $139.4 million in the budget. That is short of the $247 million advocates for the measure wanted.

Toya Fick, the executive director of Stand for Children, a Measure 98 supporter, said the state’s revenue is high, inflation is low and the economy is strong.

“Despite all of that, the governor’s budget only goes halfway,” Fick said in a statement. “If we can’t prioritize our children and their education right now, when are we going to? We are disappointed with the budget and hope lawmakers properly prioritize our schools by fully funding Measure 98.”

The measure was originally written to be dependent on revenue.

The state’s public universities received $667.3 million in the governor’s budget, maintaining current funding levels “due to statewide revenue constraints.”

University presidents commended Brown’s budget in a joint statement, but encouraged the legislature to increase the amount going to Oregon’s universities.

“By doing so, every campus can keep tuition at a manageable level for the next two years and maintain vital support services that keep students on track to graduate,” the statement read. “If we want to enable more Oregonians to earn college degrees at an affordable level of tuition, additional resources will be needed.”

Support for community colleges remains at current levels, with $550 million.

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