Oregon school superintendents warn of ‘education funding crisis’

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Four school superintendents in Oregon released a video on Monday warning about upcoming budget cuts in their districts and asked community members to look at the state’s funding formula for schools amid an “education funding crisis.”

The video features superintendents for Portland Public Schools, Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Bend-La Pine Schools, and Medford Schools.

In the video, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sandy Husk said, “We have wonderful teachers, principals and all kinds of employees that support our students and a lot of our budgets are supporting our employees and so, we really do have a crisis, a problem brewing, right now in Oregon.”

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“We have expectations from the community, and we need to be able to meet those, provide academic supports, mental health supports so that our students thrive,” Dr. Husk added.

Dr. Cook of Bend-La Pine Schools said his district is preparing for “painful cuts” including a 3% decrease for the upcoming year followed by a 7% decrease the following year, adding that’s a loss of nearly 200 positions.

Cook said the district estimates class sizes will increase by an average of four students per class.

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“If we don’t make up ground in the ’25-27 biennium, this funding gap will only make things worse,” Dr. Cook said.

Medford Schools Superintendent Dr. Bret Champion said his district is cutting $7.5 million in next year’s budget, which accounts for 32.5 positions and represents 2.5% of the district’s workforce.

“These cuts are agonizing and felt deeply by our students,” Champion said. “Reductions will mean less support for student behavior at some of our highest-need elementary schools and not enough classroom space at one of our high schools.”

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Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Andrea Castañeda noted SKPS is cutting $70 million from its budget, impacting 400 positions.

Among the 400 staff positions on the chopping block, 239 will be licensed staff, which includes teachers, instructional mentors (including teacher coaches) and program associates, a SKPS spokesperson previously told KOIN 6 News.

“We urgently need support and attention, conviction, and courage to look carefully at our state’s funding formula and protect what matters most in our communities. Our schools and our young people are at the heart of what happens next in Oregon,” Castañeda said.

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At the end of the video, Dr. Cook concluded, “So, let’s work together to reconsider our investment in public education and give school districts a chance to preserve and strengthen how we are serving kids all over the great state of Oregon.”

The video from the superintendents comes after previous warnings about budget shortfalls.

In April, PPS Superintendent Husk held a press conference discussing the proposed budget for the next school year after the district announced $30 million cuts in February.

During that press conference, Husk did not elaborate when KOIN 6 News asked whether the new teachers contract that ended a recent strike was partially responsible for the shortfall.

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“If you look around Oregon, you’re going to see rising costs regardless of when they negotiated contracts,” she said. “I want to be very strong in saying I support all of our employees. I want to make sure all of our employees are fairly and well supported through compensation and benefits.”

In early April, PPS said there are plans to cut special ed teams like assistive technology specialists for non-verbal students, the feeding team, adaptive P.E., behavior analysts and multilingual supports to speech pathologists.

However, PPS officials said the budget cuts are not the primary driver behind these staffing shifts. They said it’s part of their new model to move special education students to their neighborhood schools.

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