By State Representative Rob Nosse
There was a time when Oregon’s K-12 schools were the pride of our state. Our graduation rates were among the highest in the country, class sizes were manageable, and students had access to programs and resources they needed to thrive. That ended in 1990 when Property Tax Measure 5 passed. When that happened, we stopped investing in our schools and other public services and began pitting business and government workers against each other.
Because of Measure 5, we shifted the burden of paying for education from local areas and property taxes to income taxes collected by the state government. The state was never able to replace the lost revenue and now we have some of the largest class sizes, worst graduation rates, and one of the shortest school years in the country.
My two children started school at the beginning of the last decade. Because of the shortened school year, they both lost a year of classroom time from when they entered kindergarten to when they graduated high school. A year’s worth of school!
Public education and how we fund it has been a top priority for me as a State Representative, as a father, and now as a grandfather. We are finally poised to fix this problem. The Joint Committee on Student Success was created solely to pass legislation regarding public school funding. Now, the Legislature is deliberating House Bill 3427, also known as the Student Success Act (SSA), which would allocate an additional $2 billion a biennium to help K-12 schools.
When HB 3427 passes, it will appropriate $400 million to early childhood education, $1 billion to school improvement, and $600 million in statewide investments for mental and behavioral health support, full funding of technical education, smaller class sizes, universal access to meals, and restoration of music, art, and PE programs.
The funding for the SSA will come from a new business tax that will make Oregon’s revenue system more stable – a gross receipts form of tax. The revenue provisions under the bill will not create excessive tax rates.
Corporations that do business in Oregon have the seventh lowest overall business tax rate in the nation, according to a report shared with me by the Legislative Revenue Office. With HB 3427, we would have the 16th lowest rate. If you believe low taxes attract business, which I do not, 16th from the bottom is still pretty low. The Student Success Act will not create an environment that is unfavorable for businesses.
We have a chance to do something historic, something that has eluded us for almost three decades. We can finally fund our school system the way we need to. I look forward to voting for this landmark legislation and sending it to the Governor’s desk before the legislative session wraps up in June.