Oregon justices hear school funding case

Chris Rizo Oct. 8, 2008, 2:00pm

Peter Buckley (D)

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline) -The Oregon state Supreme Court today hears argument in a closely watched case over school funding.

Eighteen school districts and seven public school students sued the state, claiming state lawmakers have not given schools in the Beaver State their fair share of the budget despite a mandate from voters to improve schools.

Education advocates say the Legislature is constitutionally obligated to provide more money for schools to meet "quality" education goals for K-12 classrooms approved by voters in 2000 through Measure 1.

Robert Atkinson, the state's lawyer, has argued the Legislature is under no obligation to provide the billions of extra dollars of funding it would take for schools to meet the voter-approved goals.

State Rep. Peter Buckley, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he believes there is no doubt the state is underfunding schools.

"We put in place the Quality Education Model to show what a quality education would be for Oregon schools, and we have not reached that level of funding," Buckley, D-Ashland, told Legal Newsline. "When we do, we can say we are adequately funding education, but until then we can't."

He said Measure 1 allows some flexibility for the Legislature. Under the law, the Legislature must report to the public if lawmakers are not providing enough schools' funding to meet the goals.

"Our legal obligation is to either fund education adequately or explain why we didn't do it," Buckley said. "Our explanation this (biennium) was we didn't do it because we didn't have the revenue to do it. It comes down to that basic fact."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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