We can all agree that one of the most important gifts a society can give its children is a good education. Providing that education requires time, money and perseverance. Last week, the Legislature rolled out the budget for K-12 schools, and some have questioned whether it provides the means to accomplish that important task. At $8.2 billion, it is an increase of 11 percent over the current biennium. And even though that sounds like it should be an adequate amount, it may still mean that many districts will not be able to lower class sizes or implement programs that keep kids in school. School districts have been urging us to reach $8.4 billion in order to at least maintain the current level of service.
It’s important for everyone to understand that education consumes 75 percent of the general fund budget. This reflects the cost shifts created by Ballot Measure 5 in 1995, which transferred the majority of education funding to the state from local property taxes. Nevertheless, we can be proud that over the last decade we have stretched to provide more with less, including full day kindergarten. I am hopeful that, in the waning days of the session, our Ways and Means Committee will find some additional funds for education as the final re-balance is completed before adjournment. Maybe we will come closer to the $8.4 billion that will make our school districts whole.
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On a district level, I am thrilled that the Oregon Manufacturing Center (OMIC) in Scappoose has announced the signing of a formal agreement between OMIC and Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University and Portland State University, to further the progress of this world-class research and development facility. They will be joined by many well known companies including Boeing, Daimler Trucks, ATI and Vigor. This is an exciting collaboration between industry, the unions, higher education and government to provide high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs in Oregon. In addition, PCC will be building a facility nearby to facilitate “earn and learn” training programs. The implications of these agreements are far-reaching and will end up benefiting all areas of District 31.
Finally, the Columbia County Roads Department has informed us that construction and repair projects in the Shiloh Basin area will affect Anliker, Meissner, Bishop Creek and Nicolai Roads beginning July 17 and continuing through September. Winter storms played havoc with these roads, so I know that area residents will be glad to see the improvements.