June 17th, 2013 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Schools, Politics, Legislature

Education Budget Fails in the Senate; Spin Ensues: Updated

cedSen. Chris Edwards

When Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) voted against the $6.55 billion K-12 budget today, he temporarily derailed the largest chunk of state spending and gave the leaders in Salem an opportunity to present the same news in pretty different ways.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, struck first with a statement at 12:53 pm:

It is extremely disappointing Senate Republicans have squandered an opportunity to stabilize school funding and bring relief to communities across the state. I’m also very disappointed in Senator Edwards. His home school district faces continued lay-offs and the loss of even more school days. 

At 12:56 pm, the Senate Democrats released a statement that made no mention of Edwards' vote:

In an effort to stall the legislative session, Oregon Senate Republicans voted down the largest budget ever for Oregon schools, which would have provided schools with one billion dollars over current levels. Every single Senate Republican voted against Senate Bill 5519, which failed on a vote of 15-15.
 
“It is highly unfortunate that the Senate GOP has chosen to engage in partisan brinksmanship instead of delivering on Oregonians’ biggest priority: to fund our schools,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). “Without this historic increase in funding, school districts will not be able to reverse the trend of teacher layoffs and large class sizes. Oregonians sent us here to deliver a strong schools budget, and it’s completely unacceptable for the Senate Republicans to allow partisan games to get in the way of that.”

And at 1:01 pm, Senate Republicans trumpeted the vote as a "bi-partisan" achievement:

A bi-partisan group of Senators voted down an inadequate education budget on the Senate floor Monday morning. Republicans pushed for more than $6.8 billion in cash for local schools, while most Democrats have been content with a $6.55 billion school budget, a funding level education advocates have called a “cuts budget.”
 
“A $6.55 billion budget is simply not enough to help districts add back teachers, school days, elective classes and raise test scores after years of underinvestment,” said Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro), who led the floor fight for the larger $6.8 billion education budget. “Oregon has students, parents, teachers and administrators that are capable of greatness, of achieving excellence. But we must give them the resources they need to succeed.”


Updated at 5:25 pm:


In a statement, Edwards provided the following explanation for his vote: 

“Today, I made good on my commitment to oppose a k-12 state school budget that would have meant big cuts in the Eugene School District. The fact that the budget would really hurt our schools has been highly publicized in Eugene and has never been disputed. I have been opposed to the proposed budget level since it was first unveiled and have made my position clear to our budget writers and leaders in the negotiations over cost-cutting and revenue measures.

 

Recently the Republicans joined my opposition in an attempt to drive more PERS fixes. I have maintained from the beginning that I would like to see a bargain that controls the escalating costs to our schools and raises the revenue critical to school finances.

 

In today’s debate on the budget we heard a lot of rhetoric from those who only want to focus on cutting PERS costs, but we heard very little about support for a fair revenue package. Without a fair revenue package, further PERS discussions are not likely to have much traction because we need a balanced approach that addresses both the cost and the revenue side of the equation.

 

While I wholeheartedly support a deal to stabilize funding for our schools, if the Republicans don’t get serious about putting up votes for a revenue package that doesn’t include their tax cut for the wealthy, then we are clearly stuck.

 

It’s time for a vote on a schools stability package that includes the fairest PERS reforms and the fairest revenue fixes.”



 
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