Ore. lawmakers want to cut PERS for more school funding

Ore. lawmakers want to cut PERS for more school funding

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by Abbey Gibb, KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:58 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 5:23 PM

SALEM -- You would think teachers would be excited about the first budget out of Salem in years that actually increases spending on K-12 education, and they are. But it's where some additional money may come from that has them upset.

The spending plan for 2013-15, drafted by Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Peter Buckley, both Democrats, sets aside $6.55 billion for K-12 spending, plus an additional savings of $200 million for school districts from pension costs.

To get there, lawmakers will have to approve cuts in the Public Employees Retirement System, including a cap on cost-of-living increases and a recalculation of future PERS benefits, potentially totaling more than $700 million. Those cuts have yet to be negotiated.

"I was first excited to see the co-chairs understand that they really need the funding and then it turned to disappointment to be honest because they’re doing it on the backs of hard-working retiring Oregonians," said David Rives, president of the American Federation of Teachers of Oregon, that has 15,000 members.

The new state budget should allow districts to better control class size.

"Class sizes are a big problem. We have to supplement a lot of her educational experience," Portland parent, Betsy Salter said of her child.

"A big sigh of relief for myself as a parent as well," said Portland Association of Teachers President, Gwen Sullivan. "It's absolutely a step in the right direction."

The Oregon PTA said the changes don't go far enough. Many districts like Salem-Keizer, Hillsboro and Beaverton might not be able to reduce class sizes at all.

"We know what works for kids but the question is how to fund it. Some districts will still have a budget shortfall and have to figure that out. It's good news but not a complete fix," said legislative advocate for Oregon PTA, Otto Schell.

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