Suing for Schools

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

If you can’t convince legislators to spend more money on the public school system any other way, you can always sue them.

Oregon School Funding Defense Foundation has been formed to do just that. It plans to sue the state of Oregon demanding that it allocate nearly two billion dollars more per biennium to the public school system. Such lawsuits have already been filed in 37 states, and so far 21 of those cases have gone against the states.

If courts looked at the facts, such suits would have little chance. Public school systems now spend twice the dollars per pupil, adjusted for inflation, as they did in the 1970s. They spend four times what they spent in the 1950s. And what do we have to show for all this spending? Not much based on standardized test scores.

Apparently neither facts, nor how you feel about them, matter much to certain school funding advocates. When Portland Mayor Tom Potter recently proposed a new city income tax to fund Portland schools, his chief of staff Nancy Hamilton said:

“Failure is not an option. We owe it to our kids, and shame on all of you who aren’t with us. The greater good will prevail. We have to do this. There is no other choice, and it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not.”

But it does matter whether Portlanders like the mayor’s, or any other tax plan, since they will get to vote on it.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, 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.

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