Governor Kate Brown has been facing criticism for her new plans to lower state funding for community colleges.
Educators from across Oregon gathered at the feet of the State Capitol in Salem on Feb. 18. The March For Our Students was organized by the Oregon Education Association to tell Governor Kate Brown that she needs to allocate more money to Oregon schools. Oregon has steadily increasing graduation rates in the past few years, but the state still ranks among the lowest in high school graduation rates.
The rally quickly took to the streets with teacher and student unions on megaphones demanding additional funding for education. The supporters concluded their parade of clever signs and red shirts that said “I stand with students” inside the Capitol. The supporters made sure their voices were heard with a synchronized chant shouting “four billion more” echoing through the governor’s offices.
At the end of the rally, people were hand-delivering personal testimonies to their public representatives, explaining why the budget should be increased. The budget shows an increase in funds, but educators expressed it isn’t enough.
Though the governor’s budget would add an additional $2.7 billion dollars to education funding, she still plans to cut the funding for community colleges by 4.7 percent. Overall state funding for community colleges would fall by $3.8 million next year.
This isn’t the only way community colleges receive money, however. The other sources of funding are tuition and local property tax revenue. Property tax funding has increased by $76.4 million since the last budget plan. The property tax and state funding will be allocated between the 17 community colleges in Oregon. Brown claims the additional property tax money will ensure that community college tuition won’t grow more than three and a half percent.
Lane Community College President Margaret Hamilton was at the rally showing her disapproval with the budget cut on community colleges.
“It’s going to be devastating,” Hamilton said. “Our students won’t be very well served.”
If Brown’s budget passes, the administration will be stressed to find funding for already poorly funded programs. LCC is currently experiencing low enrollment numbers, which means revenue from tuition is also suffering. Though money for community colleges will be tight, Hamilton looks at the bright side.
“We will do alright,” Hamilton said.
For public universities like the University of Oregon, Brown plans to add almost $857 million to a Public University Support Fund. She claims that the colleges have indicated they will not raise tuition more than five percent because of the extra funds.
Though Brown’s proposal may cause an increase in tuition at colleges and universities across the state, she plans to increase funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, nearly doubling the fund with an additional $121.5 million. This grant has helped about 40,000 students pay for college each year.
The criteria for this grant is simple: a student must be an Oregon resident pursuing an undergraduate degree, not have prior bachelor degrees and be enrolled for at least part time by fall term.
This budget will also provide for more than 1,200 publicly funded K-12 schools and 25 public colleges with funding over the next two years. In many ways, Oregon schools will be seeing an increase in public funding.
The total funds for educational programs is $13.7 Billion, which is greater than the last budget of $11 billion. This money will go towards paying for school administrators salaries all the way down to the gas in the school busses for the next two years.
Brown’s budget plan shows her interest is not in higher education, but on getting kids to graduate high school.
“Ensuring that all Oregon students graduate with a high school diploma and have multiple pathways to careers and postsecondary degrees is critical to our economy,” Brown wrote in her proposal. She claims this budget is an investment to ensure growing graduation rates and “to put Oregon on a path to graduating every student in high school.”