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Districts File Suit Against Legislature Print E-mail
By Kent Hunsaker, COSA Executive Directorkent-hunsaker

A group of school districts and parents from across Oregon filed a lawsuit against the State of Oregon on March 21, alleging that lawmakers have failed in their constitutional duty to adequately fund schools.

Two provisions of Oregon’s constitution are at the heart of the lawsuit against the state: 1) Article VIII, Section 8, which requires the legislature to appropriate in each biennium a sum of money “sufficient to ensure that the state’s system of K-12 public education meets quality goals established by law,” and 2) Article VIII, Section 3, which requires the Legislature to “provide by law for the establishment of a uniform and general system of common schools.”   The Legislature created the Oregon Quality Education Commission (QEC) for the purpose of determining the amount of money sufficient to ensure that the state’s K-12 public education system meets the Legislature’s articulated goals. According to the QEC, as a result of the 2005-07 K-12 funding shortfall, “the gap continues to widen between actual funding levels and the resources needed to achieve Oregon’s educational goals.” The result of such massive under-funding, the Commission has warned, “will be an inadequate school syst

em, a burden on the state economy and the loss of Oregon’s status as a high quality-of-life state.”
 
Much empirical evidence exists to support the statement that funding for K-12 education continues to be inadequate.

  • The QEC estimates that the 05-07 level of funding is $1.8 billion short of what is required.
  • In the 2003-04 school year, Oregon ranked 28th in per pupil K-12 funding among the 50 states, down from 16th in 1992.
  • Oregon’s national standing dropped even more precipitously when measured as a percentage of the average personal income, falling from 11th in 1992 to a lowly 34th by 2003.
Years of inadequate funding have severely diminished the quality of K-12 public education in Oregon. For example:
  • As of 2002, the state’s 71% high school graduation rate ranked 32nd in the nation.
  • As of 2000, with 23.9 students on average, Oregon’s classrooms were the second most crowded in the nation.
  • As of 2002, Oregon ranked 48th nationally in median pupil-teacher ratio in the state’s primary schools.

COSA strongly supports having the judicial system weigh in on the school funding debate. The case asks the courts to clarify the states obligations to K-12 funding under the Oregon Constitution and to instruct the Legislature to fulfill those obligations.

Oregon’s school children deserve to receive the quality education to which they are constitutionally entitled – the quality education that voters demanded by a 2-1 margin when they passed Measure 1 in 2000.

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This page was last updated on Monday, May 15, 2006 .