As you are aware, funding for schools and programs took a devastating turn over the last four to five years.
In fact, the overall budget for Astoria School District was reduced by at least 10 percent to 15 percent during these times.
Furlough days were implemented, programs were cut and valuable staff members lost their jobs. In light of these cutbacks, I am proud to announce that staff continued to show strong dedication and commitment to educating our students. Actually, improvement in learning has been shown at all levels. For example, both elementary schools in our district have been named model schools.
As for future funding, 2013-2014 is the first year of the new biennium (two-year cycle for funding). State legislature will set the funding level for the next two years. Currently, the district is funded (State School Fund) at the $5.7 billion level. This means, throughout the State of Oregon, schools in grades K-12 were provided $5.7 billion in funding for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. Unfortunately, it was less than the previous biennium. This is what caused all schools in the state to make drastic reductions.
In January 2013, the governor proposed a $6.15 billion funding level for Oregon schools. This is better news, as it is higher than the previous biennium, but even with the increase, it would be difficult to bring our district and the rest of the state back to an adequate funding level necessary to provide a quality school year.
Recently, legislative leaders publicly stated that they would like to see a $6.75 billion level of funding for grades K-12. A large portion of the revenue would come from the PERS reform. Although controversial, state officials vowed to provide the reform monies even if the court rules that it is unconstitutional. The district would then be required to pay the money back. Unfortunately, funding levels and PERS reform information may not be finalized until April at the earliest or as late as June.
To begin the 2013-14 budget process for the Astoria School District, I will present general information to the Board of Directors and Budget Committee at the study session on Wednesday beginning at 6:15 p.m. The meeting will take place in the third-floor board room at Gray School, 785 Alameda Ave.
Budgeting decisions will not be made at this time, but discussion regarding priorities will be held among the members. Directly following the study session, the Boards regular meeting will be held. At that time, members will discuss and possibly pass a resolution in support of the Strong Schools, Strong State campaign. This movement is in effect to encourage legislature to prioritize education as a state investment by supporting adequate funding for every child in Oregon.
We all know that further program cuts, staff reductions or loss of school days inhibits the investments needed to enable our schools to provide a quality education for all our students. If the School Board chooses to pass the Strong Schools, Strong State campaign resolution, a copy will be provided to our local legislatures. This campaign is sponsored by Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Employees Association, Oregon PTA, Oregon School Boards Association and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. Additional information concerning the Strong Schools, Strong State campaign can be found at http://www. osba.org/Resources/Article/Improving_Education/S4/JoinStrongSchools.aspx
In the meantime, I would urge each of you to contact our local legislative representatives and ask them to support school funding and make it a priority. From my experience, both are very receptive and eager to hear from their constituents.
As always, I am extremely thankful for your continued support and commitment. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions.
Craig Hoppes is the superintendent of the Astoria School District.