My testimony to the state Ways and Means Committee

Hello ways and means committee,

My name is Sara Kirby I am a mother of two elementary-aged students in the Parkrose school district, I am also chair of the Parkrose School District Board of Education.

I recognize you have a hard task in front of you. There are many needs in our state.

For three decades, and in particular since the 2008 recession, Oregon has underfunded schools. In fact, not once has the state funded Oregon schools to their own Quality Education Model.

At your proposed budget Parkrose will be facing $1.9 million in cuts for the next school year. For Parkrose this is the equivalent of cutting 18 days of school or 18 teachers. In year two of the budget it looks worse, an almost three million shortfall. I’m not yet sure how we can cover this gap.

Seniors graduating this year in Parkrose have missed 30 days of school due to lack of funding.

Parkrose teachers and staff, many of them families living in our community, have missed those same 30 days of pay.

I worry this trend will of underfunding our schools will continue to be considered acceptable in Oregon. To continue to be the usual state of affairs. My daughter started kindergarten this year, she and all Parkrose kids, are missing five days due to budget furlough days. A tough way to start your education career and a decision I approved and have to live with given the 1.6 million dollar shortfall we faced last year.

This state of chronic underfunding has externalized the costs to school staff at all levels in the form of increased workload. Workloads in Parkrose are immense at all levels from the Superintendent to teachers to education assistants. I worry about working conditions and burnout for all our staff. Families and students feel it too. I’m sure you’ve heard numerous reports of unmet social and emotional needs of students and more recently staff at schools.

This is not acceptable. This has got to stop.   

Parkrose students, all Oregon students deserve fully funded schools.

If this committee was to provide adequate and stable funding we could begin to repair our district. We would hire a second middle school counselor for our more than 750 middle school students, we would hire librarians for our middle school and elementary schools we would add PE  back to elementary schools. We would increase hours of our educational assistants so they could better communicate with teachers and support our students. We would hire more building custodians -- currently teachers and ed assistants share the responsibility of keeping our schools clean with the few custodians we have. We would hire more teachers.  

We can only do this if the state provides stable, adequate funding. Funding we can count on year over year so that we do not have to constantly beg for an ever shrinking slice of the pie.

If the state wants to see better outcomes and accountability in schools, schools need to be predictably funded, rather than the predictable two year cycle of teachers, administrators, board members and community spending time, time not focused on students and learning, imploring you to fund schools.

Please fund our schools. Schools are not escaping cuts this year and while the Joint Committee on Student Success is an investment opportunity in the future we need stable, adequate funding of Oregon schools everyday.  

Thank you for listening to and considering my words.

Sara Kirby