Governor Kitzhaber’s proposed budget for the 2011 – 2013 biennium provides $7.5 billion for PERS. That is a $1 billion dollar increase over the 2009 – 2011 PERS budget. The 14.6%increase is primarily due to growth in retirement funding payments that public employers must pay to PERS and to a 6.7% increase in operation costs.
This is what Oregon’s Superintendent of Public Instruction had to say about the Governor’s proposed budget:
Superintendent Castillo Statement on Governor Kitzhaber’s Proposed Budget
SALEM – “The Governor’s proposed budget dedicates a total of $5.56 billion in state funding for Oregon school districts for the 2011-2013 biennium. This funding level is drastically lower than the estimated $6.5 billion our schools need to keep up with inflation and maintain the level of current services to students.
“This proposed budget will directly impact our children in the form of reduced learning time, fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and fewer programs aimed at helping struggling students meet the new proficiency graduation requirements starting next year.
“I strongly urge the Governor to focus on steady and sustainable funding for education. Our school district leaders and school boards must be able to plan their budgets with certainty, knowing that they won’t have to make drastic cuts throughout the school year. The Governor’s Education Investment board is a strong step toward creating sustainable funding for students and I look forward to serving on the working group for the board.
“Over the years our students’ share of state funding has steadily decreased from 45% of the state budget in 2003-05 biennium to 39% in 2009-11, and this continues to dwindle. These shortfalls occur at a time of increasing student need for special education, English language learner, and poverty services. And at a time when we have raised the level of rigor for our students to better prepare them for college and careers.
“We know Oregon K-12 must do better with less. We can no longer make minor adjustments. The days of band aids and short-term fixes are over. We must create a student-focused education system that is more efficient and more effective. I am committed to working with the Governor to deliver this for our kids.
“At the state level we are doing our work differently to create efficiencies and ease the long list of state mandates on our school districts so they can spend more time working on student achievement. We are proposing changes to our current system that could help us meet the current budget crisis in our state.”
Is it just a coincidence that PERS goes up by $1 billion while our children’s education is short-changed by $1 billion? Probably not. Oregon’s PERS legislators have made PERS funding the state’s highest financial priority. Fully funding their retirement benefits is more important to them than educating Oregon’s children. When Oregon has a budget shortfall, the laws ensure that PERS will prosper and that all other area of the state will suffer.
Let your legislator know what you think about this spending priority.