Oregon GOP Walkout Imperils School Funding, Stifles Legislative Progress

by Michael Nguyen
school funding

A Republican walkout in Oregon has plunged the state’s education system into uncertainty, jeopardizing funding for schools, literacy programs, and special education teachers. With 60% of third graders reading below grade level, the impasse, which has paralyzed the Legislature for nearly six weeks, threatens to disrupt critical education initiatives.

The standoff revolves around a bill aimed at expanding access to abortion and gender-affirming health care. Unfortunately, this political clash could have far-reaching consequences, including the derailing of much-needed education funding. Despite the state’s better-than-expected tax revenues and the approval of a record K-12 budget amounting to $10.2 billion, the education spending legislation hinges on a Senate vote, which has been unable to proceed since May 3 due to the Republican boycott. With just two weeks remaining in the legislative session, time is running out.

Democratic state Rep. Courtney Neron, Chair of the House Committee on Education, expressed her disappointment at the walkout, emphasizing the urgency of supporting strong schools and improving student outcomes. She called for a collective response to the serious challenges faced by Oregon’s educational institutions, from early childhood through higher education.

While the Oregon Senate Republican office emphasized the importance of fully funding education, Republican minority leader Sen. Tim Knopp stated that his caucus plans to return by June 25 to pass a significant number of bipartisan bills and budgets. However, Democrats argue that waiting until the last day of the session to pass budgets is impractical. School districts need a sense of potential funding by early July to adequately plan for the upcoming school year. If lawmakers do not return soon, there may be a need for a special session convened by Governor Tina Kotek to address the budgetary concerns.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education is evident in Oregon, as reading and math scores have plummeted. School closures, especially for young children, have deprived them of crucial in-person instruction, hindering their ability to learn to read. The latest state assessment results indicate that approximately 60% of third graders in Oregon lack proficiency in reading or math.

Apart from the $10.2 billion K-12 budget, which received bipartisan support in the House, the Republican walkout also threatens other critical education bills. These bills aim to address pandemic learning losses, tackle the education workforce crisis, and allocate $140 million to a new early literacy initiative for children from birth through third grade. The initiative holds great importance for Governor Kotek’s agenda.

The potential consequences of the walkout are alarming. Gini Pupo-Walker, the executive director of nonprofit advocacy group The Education Trust, emphasized the significance of the bills that could reshape the way reading is taught and transform students’ learning experiences. She expressed concern that these bills are being held hostage to a separate issue.

The early literacy bill, in particular, garnered significant public support, with over 150 written comments received. It aims to fund tutoring for struggling readers and directs schools to base literacy instruction on scientifically researched reading methods, including phonics. Parents like Anna Ingram in Eugene testified in favor of the bill, highlighting the struggles they faced when their children were not provided with effective reading instruction.

Education spending in the coming years will play a pivotal role as federal pandemic funds are set to expire. Jon Valant, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, emphasized the urgent need for thoughtful and careful policymaking in education, given the significant impact of the pandemic on U.S. schools. He stressed the importance of utilizing available resources effectively, as they are not limitless.

Claire Rush is a corps member for the Big Big News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about school funding

What is the impact of the Oregon GOP walkout on school funding?

The Oregon GOP walkout poses a significant threat to school funding in the state. The legislative impasse has stalled vital education bills and jeopardized billions of dollars allocated for schools, literacy programs, and special education teachers. This walkout has created uncertainty and delays in addressing the pressing challenges faced by Oregon’s education system.

What is the cause of the Republican walkout in Oregon?

The Republican walkout in Oregon was triggered by a bill aimed at expanding access to abortion and gender-affirming health care. The GOP members have chosen to boycott the legislative proceedings, effectively bringing the Legislature to a standstill. This political clash has resulted in the obstruction of various bills and disrupted the passage of crucial education funding legislation.

What are the consequences of the GOP walkout on education initiatives?

The consequences of the GOP walkout on education initiatives in Oregon are significant. The impasse could hinder the implementation of bills intended to address pandemic learning losses, tackle the education workforce crisis, and establish a new early literacy initiative. Furthermore, the walkout threatens to derail funding for schools, putting at risk the much-needed resources for improving student outcomes and addressing the state’s educational challenges.

Is there a possibility of resolving the walkout and securing education funding?

There are efforts being made to resolve the GOP walkout and secure education funding. While Republicans have expressed the importance of fully funding education and plan to return to pass bipartisan bills and budgets, Democrats argue that waiting until the last day of the legislative session is not feasible. It may require Governor Tina Kotek to convene a special session if lawmakers do not return in time to ensure funding and address the budgetary concerns necessary for effective planning by school districts.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted education in Oregon?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on education in Oregon. School closures disrupted in-person instruction, particularly affecting young children who missed critical learning opportunities. As a result, reading and math scores have plummeted, with approximately 60% of third graders in Oregon struggling with reading or math proficiency. The pandemic has underscored the urgency of addressing the educational challenges and allocating resources to support students’ learning and development.

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MarkM June 12, 2023 - 9:44 pm

can’t believe this walkout messin’ with education bills. we gotta address them pandemic learnin’ losses, boost teacher numbers, and fund early literacy. these bills matter, man!

Chris82 June 13, 2023 - 1:37 am

yo, oregon gop, get back to work! schools need funds, kids need help. don’t let politics ruin education. stop playin’ games and do the right thing!

Liz123 June 13, 2023 - 3:05 am

i’m so angry ’bout how pandemic hurt our kids’ education. scores went down, and now this walkout puttin’ education funds at risk. we need solutions, not politics!

Sara_89 June 13, 2023 - 5:37 am

i heard bout the repub walkout in oregon. they boycotting and stallin’ the whole dang legislature. that means schools, literacy programs, and special ed teachers could suffer. we need them funds!

Emma.G June 13, 2023 - 8:51 am

as a parent, i’m worried ’bout my kid’s education. we can’t afford to lose funds for schools and literacy programs. this walkout messin’ with our children’s future. get it together, oregon!

Johnny86 June 13, 2023 - 5:06 pm

oh man, this oregon gop walkout is messin’ up school fundin’! like seriously, billions at stake for schools and stuff. not good, man!


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