• Deb Mayer

A Tale of Two Cities


Would your child get a better education in Salem, Massachusetts or Salem, Oregon? No contest. Salem, Mass. wins hands down. This infographic appears in a new document produced in collaboration between Oregon Education Association, AFT - Oregon, and Oregon PTA -- Decades of Disinvestment: The State of School Funding in Oregon. The Salem v. Salem scenario is an appropriate comparison between education in one of the highest performing states and Oregon, a low performing state (39th out of 50). The study provides additional information by breaking down county/district data. (It would be expedient for users if OEA would index all the data so that information can be more efficiently located either by editing the Table of Contents to include all data sets or by adding an index at the end of the document.)

Study by Oregon Education Association, Oregon American Federation of Teachers, and Oregon Parent Teachers Association

A tale of a state, a county , and a school district

The study affords the opportunity to make a wide variety of comparisons. With a little targeted sleuthing you can make some fundamental calculations about what is needed to give our kids the schools they deserve: how much funding do we need, where do we need to spend it, and what do we need to spend it on? And we can do it without using a single high stakes student test score. Imagine that! What can you deduce from this snapshot of Portland Public Schools. Of course, it isn't all inclusive, but it is a good place to start.

Oregon state data:

Funding: The 2014-15 national average for public school funding per student was $12,578.1 By contrast Oregon schools spent $10,615 per student which is 15.6% below the national average.

Class Size: The 2014-15 median class size in the State of Oregon was around 26 students with 46.8% of classes having 26 or more students and 6.1% of classes having 36 or more students. The state had a student/teacher ratio of 22.5 which is 42.4% above the national average of 15.8 students per teacher.

Support Staff : The following table summarizes students per staff member for various support categories.

Instructional Assistant 65

Guidance Counselor 549

Library/Media Staff 674

School Nurse 4,635

Graduation Rate: The 2014-15 high school graduation rate for the State of Oregon was 78.4%.

Length of School Year:The majority of states require 180 days of student instruction. (The chart showing the distribution of session days for all students in the State of Oregon with the 180-day ideal marked in green may be viewed at the link above.)

Spending on School Buildings: In the State of Oregon, spending on operations and maintenance as well as facilities acquisition and construction totaled $1,677 per student in 2014-15. This is 42.2% below the annual $2,900 per student recommended by the 2016 State of Our Schools report. (The chart showing historical spending levels may be viewed at the link above.)

Multnomah county data:

Funding: The 2014-15 national average for public school funding per student was $12,578.1 By contrast Multnomah County spent $12,038 per student which is 4.3% below the national average.

Class Size: The 2014-15 median class size in Multnomah County was around 26 students with 48.2% of classes having 26 or more students and 3.7% of classes having 36 or more students. The county had a student/teacher ratio of 23.2 which is 46.9% above the national average of 15.8 students per teacher.

Support Staff: The following table summarizes students per staff member for various support categories.

Instructional Assistant 88

Guidance Counselor 469

Library/Media Staff 696

School Nurse 1,776

Graduation Rate: The 2014-15 high school graduation rate for Multnomah County was 77.3%. This is 1.4% below the state graduation rate of 78.4%.

Length of School Year: The majority of states require 180 days of student instruction.2 This chart showing the distribution of session days for all students in the State of Oregon with the 180-day ideal marked in green may be viewed at the above link.)

Spending on School Buildings: In Multnomah County, spending on operations and maintenance as well as facilities acquisition and construction totaled $1,978 per student in 2014-15. This is 31.8% below the annual $2,900 per student recommended by the 2016 State of Our Schools report. (The chart showing historical spending levels may be viewed at the above link.)

Portland School District

Funding: The 2014-15 national average for public school funding per student was $12,578.1 By contrast Portland SD 1J spent $13,055 per student which is 3.8% above the national average.

Class Size: The 2014-15 median class size in Portland SD 1J was around 24 students with 37.5% of classes having 26 or more students and 1.6% of classes having 36 or more students. The district had a student/teacher ratio of 21.0 which is 33.0% above the national average of 15.8 students per teacher.

Support Staff : The following table summarizes students per staff member for various support categories.

Instructional Assistant 104

Guidance Counselor 473

Library/Media Staff 672

School Nurse 1,328

Graduation Rate: The 2014-15 high school graduation rate for Portland SD 1J was 80.9%. This is 3.2% above the state graduation rate of 78.4%.

Length of School Year: The majority of states require 180 days of student instruction.2 This chart showing the distribution of session days for all students in the State of Oregon with the 180-day ideal marked in green may be viewed at the above link.

Spending on School Buildings: In Portland SD 1J, spending on operations and maintenance as well as facilities acquisition and construction totaled $2,298 per student in 2014-15. This is 20.7% below the annual $2,900 per student recommended by the 2016 State of Our Schools report. The chart showing historic spending levels may be viewed at the above link.

"Over the course of the last two decades, investment in Oregon’s public schools has continued to decline to a point where independent rankings have placed Oregon schools near the bottom in the nation for school funding.

Prior to 1990 and the passage of Measure 5, Oregon’s school funding relied heavily on local property taxes. Today, years of recession-related cuts, on top of decades of disinvestment, have taken a toll: instead of making public education a priority, Oregon has some of the largest classes, shortest school years and lowest graduation rates in the country.

In order to catch up to the national average, let alone rank near the top with states such as Massachusetts, Oregon would need to need to invest billions more per biennium.

This report gives an overview of how schools in Oregon are funded, illustrates the consequences of disinvestment in public education, and o ers comparisons to states that are committed to better funding their schools. Included as an appendix is a county-by-county breakdown so readers can get a better idea of what’s missing from their local school budgets and spending plans.

Key Findings

  • In 2014-2015 Oregon had the third largest classes in the country. Oregon’s 20.7 student-to-teacher ratio was about one-third higher than the national average.

  • In the 2014-2015 school year, Oregon students averaged 169.9 days in the classroom. Most states require a minimum 180 days per school year, two full weeks longer than what the average Oregon student receives.

  • Oregon used to have more than 1,200 career and technical education programs, but now there are fewer than 700 statewide.

  • Since 2008, one in 20 schools has closed or consolidated, which means fewer kids are going to neighborhood schools and transportation costs are higher.

  • Education Week ranked Oregon 39th in school funding, with a D+ grade.

  • In 2013-14 the National Center for Education Statistics ranked Oregon’s graduation rate fourth lowest in the country.

  • The Quality Education Model, the guiding document behind school funding in Oregon, identi es a $2 billion funding gap in 2015-2017. That much investment would move Oregon up to around 15th in per-pupil funding for K-12 — Oregon’s ranking before Measure 5 took effect.

  • To equal the investments made in Massachusetts, Quality Count’s top-rated state, Oregon would have to spend around $3 billion more per year on K-12 education, or $6 billion per biennium."

Study by Oregon Education Association, Oregon American Federation of Teachers, and Oregon Parent Teachers Association

Conclusions from Decades of Disinvestment: The State of School Funding in Oregon

"There is no denying the research: Public education is a good investment. People with more education tend to get better jobs, earn more money and be in better health. Education fuels economic growth. In independent surveys, corporate executives report that an educated workforce is one of the most important factors when they decide where to locate operations.

Yet, Oregon continues to fall short. Consider:

● The Quality Education Model, the guiding document behind school funding in Oregon, identi ed a $2 billion funding gap in 2017-19.

● To equal the investment made in Massachusetts, a state with strong education outcomes, Oregon would have to invest $3 billion more per year in K-12 education, or $6 billion per biennium.

● To get class sizes down to the national average, Oregon would have to add nearly 7,500 educators. To get into the top 10 smallest class sizes in the country, like Massachusetts, Oregon would need to add 15,500 more educators.

● Each additional week of school costs about $100 million a year. Reaching the minimum required for most states would cost around $500 million per biennium. Adding a month to the school year would cost $800 million per biennium.

● Additional investment is also needed to provide our students with instructional assistants, guidance counselors, librarians, and other school sta .

● School buildings are crumbling and urgently need to be renovated or replaced. Oregon schools have deferred $7.6 billion in facilities maintenance.

Compared to other states, Oregon ranks near the bottom for funding. Oregon’s education system needs major investments, especially if we want our students to have the same opportunities as others from across the country."


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