Oregon Court Rules State Not Obligated

Last Updated: March 12, 2009

This article appeared in the February 2009 Rural Policy Matters.
The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled against a group of families and school districts that brought a finance lawsuit against the state in 2006. The plaintiff group included representatives of small districts and districts with declining enrollment. They alleged violations of the state constitution and of “Ballot Measure 1,” which requires the legislature to provide enough money to ensure Oregon students meet standards established by the Quality Education Model. 
The measure also mandates a legislative report on education funding that explains how funding is adequate to meet goals or why it is not and what the impact on student achievement will be as a result. 
The state’s highest court agreed with the Oregon Court of Appeals’ ruling in Pendleton et al v. State of Oregon, which stated that the state legislature does not have an obligation to "provide sufficient funding to meet the quality goals" under Measure 1.
The decision did conclude that the legislature had failed to fund the Oregon public school system at sufficient levels and that the trial court should have entered a judgment on that issue. Lawsuit supporters are pleased with that part of the decision and have said they might take the issue back to voters with a ballot measure making it clear that the Legislature must give schools enough money to meet the goals.
State analysts estimated the cost of meeting the Quality Education Model's goals at $7.7 billion in the current two-year budget, about $1.5 billion more than schools actually got. The extra money would pay for smaller class sizes, more courses and extra help for struggling students.
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Read more from the February 2009 Rural Policy Matters.