When Gov. John Kitzhaber unveiled his budget last month, it included about $5.6 billion for K-12 education in Oregon. That's a lot of money but is also about $1 billion less than lawmakers and school districts thought they were going to get as recently as last June.
Tax receipts simply have not kept pace with rising personnel costs, however, so the expected total of about $6.6 billion for K-12 education is not there. That means Oregon's 197 school districts face some combination of teacher layoffs, compensation reductions and shortening the school year for the 2011-13 budget cycle.
Layoffs are painful and likely to be a contentious issue as budget discussions firm up. Oregon is one of 15 states in which teachers must by law be laid off according to seniority, with the last in being the first out. The Oregon Education Association, the powerful statewide teachers' union, says any layoff is regrettable but in the absence of a comprehensive teacher evaluation system, which Oregon lacks, seniority is the most objective approach.
Parents are aready contacting lawmakers to push for change on the issue. One parent shared the responses of Salem's Senate Education Committee Chairman Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) and House Education Co-Chairs Reps. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) and Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville).
And here are the lawmakers' responses to that parent:
From Hass' assistant:
And from Wingard: