School spending options involve tradeoffs

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For the last six years, Oregon parents have watched state and local budget-making with a list of depressing questions on their minds: How big will my child’s class be next year? How many days of school will get cut? How many teachers will lose their jobs?

Next year, for a change, districts across the state will stop cutting and start rebuilding. As money comes back into district coffers, what should be on parents’ minds?

First, many districts will need to replenish cash reserves spent during the recession. Historically, districts have reserved a minimum of 5 percent of their total budgets to weather economic downturns. Many are now below that threshold, and given historic volatility in funding reserves should be rebuilt. After that, new funds will likely be targeted in three ways:

1) Providing salary increases for current teachers.

2) Adding back school days, which also increases compensation for teachers.

3) Hiring teachers and other staff, like librarians, counselors and bilingual instructors, to reduce class sizes and support students.

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