Educators, advocates, and business owners call for investment

Yesterday, legislative leaders held public hearings on HB 2830, the bill that would start to hold large and out-of-state corporations accountable for their fair share — and the response was astounding. Oregonians from all across the state turned out to tell legislators that we want a revenue package that does more than maintain the subpar status quo. It’s time for game-changing investments in our schools and services.

Oregon’s chronic disinvestment from education was front and center, with educators and advocates sharing why current funding levels are a crisis. Nancy MacMorris-Adix of the Salem-Keizer School Board gave legislators a glimpse into what the 3rd largest class sizes in the nation look like:

“We have elementary classrooms with more than 30 students. We have high school science classes where students sit on lab counters because there is not enough room for more desks. It’s a heartbreaking cycle of disinvestment that we just can’t seem to break… We must do much better by Oregon students, and that will take significant, game-changing revenue. It’s clear to me that Oregon’s low corporate taxes must be fixed, and I hope the Legislature will find the courage to pass a revenue package this session that changes the trajectory of our schools. It’s the best investment our state can make.”

Mat Marr, the former chair of the Ashland School Board, gave voice to Oregonians’ frustration with deeper and deeper cuts to class offerings:

“As Speech and Debate coach at Ashland High School, I have seen the amazing things that students can do when given the resources to succeed. Sadly, Speech programs are among the many great resources for students that districts around the state have felt forced to eliminate in the face of long-term decreasing and unstable revenue.”

Tessa James Scheller, a board member of the Clatsop Community College Board of Directors, called on legislators to stop balancing the budget on the backs of families and local businesses, and start making big corporations pay their fair share:

“Our elected leaders must choose between passing a new revenue package and holding corporations accountable, or continuing the status quo, which unfairly balances our state budget on the backs of students, families and local businesses. For me, the choice is an easy one. Since Oregon has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation, our legislators have a responsibility to make sure large corporations pay their fair share. Oregon is booming and we cannot afford cuts to education that put our bright future at risk.”

In a passionate letter, Craig Hawkins, the Executive Director of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, and 43 other signatories condemned delays on funding education, reminding leaders that three generations of Oregon students have weathered ever-deeper cuts to education:

“The 2017 Legislature has the opportunity to create a brighter future for Oregon’s nearly 580,000 students and their families… Please don’t kick the can down the road one more time or we will all be back here in 2019, 2021 and beyond having the same conversation about funding and lamenting lackluster outcomes for our students. And meanwhile we will be one year closer to our fourth generation of students who are waiting for a bipartisan solution.”

But education advocates weren’t the only ones to speak out. Rick Miller, founder of Avamere and Rogue Venture Partners, joined other local businesses in urging the Legislature to invest in schools and services.

“As an engaged community and business leader, I care deeply about our k-12 and higher education system, public infrastructure, and affordable and accessible healthcare. In order for my businesses to succeed, we rely on good schools and affordable health care, and I’m very concerned that without the Hass/Kotek plan we are going to have to make cuts to important programs and that Oregon families are going to fall further and further behind.”

With the broad support for game-changing revenue, it’s clear that Oregon’s leaders must take action: Oregon’s families, students, and business owners can’t afford to wait another day for investment. The stories shared at yesterday’s hearing show that when we make our voices heard, legislators listen. Help keep the momentum going: Tell your legislator to hold big corporations accountable for their fair share and invest in a better Oregon!

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