The Oregon Legislature recently passed a 6.2 billion dollar budget for K-12 education for the 2007-2009 biennium, a 14 percent increase over the last two years and the largest in Oregon history. This funding will enable some districts to expand music and physical education programs, and decrease class sizes. However, over half of the additional funds will be used to pay for rapidly rising health-care costs and teachers’ salaries. These funds come without any state mandate for school districts to prove they are using their money efficiently.
Parents’ calls for school spending accountability seem to have fallen on deaf ears in the Democratically-controlled legislature, as a bill that would require districts to audit their expenditures has not been passed. Meanwhile, a bill backed by the teachers’ union to create a statewide health insurance pool found its way to Gov. Kulongoski’s desk despite the Oregon School Boards Association’s warning that it would significantly increase costs for many districts. Oregon ranks fourth in the nation for teachers’ benefits and pensions as a percentage of payroll.
Students, parents and taxpayers deserve more than a legislature beholden to special interest groups which don’t want financial accountability. They deserve schools that focus on children’s education first. Reforms for financial and performance accountability should be enacted before the state spends any more on our bureaucratic public school system.
© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.