School Board hopeful for increased revenue

Budget committee members of Salem-Keizer Public Schools received a summary on Tuesday, March 19 of the choices they will have to make in efforts to improve the schools.

Officials of this and other districts in Oregon hope the state will be able to spend $10.37 billion on public schools for 2019-20. This would consist of Gov. Kate Brown’s base budget of $9.24 billion, full funding for Measure 98, and a $1 billion school improvement fund.

Goals are student health and safety, smaller class sizes and more learning time. To achieve them, budget committee members have raised questions about the following:

Equity: To compensate for the disadvantages some students have, funds are targeted for reduced class size, extended learning time, student health and safety and well-rounded learning.

Public Employees Retirement System (PERS): PERS costs are the largest benefit cost and include an unfunded liability, which is the shortfall in funds to cover current and future benefits.

Transportation infrastructure: The vehicle replacement cycle has not been maintained and the failure rate has been increasing because the rising age of the fleet.

Career and technical education (CTE): The district seeks to expand CTE programs in eight locations.

Office of Behavioral Learning: This office was created in 2017-18 to respond to emergent student needs. The current budget included a full-time equivalent of 6-1/2 new behavioral cadre support positions.

Class size report: Charts show that average Salem-Keizer class sizes have fluctuated for elementary schools, risen slightly for middle schools and become noticeably smaller for high schools.

The committee will meet again April 23 to elect its chair and vice chair and hear Superintendent Christy Perry’s budget presentation.