By Our Oregon
The February legislative sessions resulted in progress for Oregon families, showing hopeful glimpses of a return to support for middle class priorities.
Legislative leaders were able to prevent more cuts to public schools and senior services, but with split control of the House, many desperately needed bills were killed by House Republicans before they could even come up for a vote. Much was accomplished, but there is much more to do as Oregon’s economy recovers, including restoring the funds for our schools and critical services that were slashed in the recession.
Despite weeks of effort by Republican leaders in the House to kill two vital foreclosure protection reforms, the bills passed in the last few minutes of the session. This means that families facing foreclosure will have the right to meet with their banks to try to work out an agreement, and banks will no longer be able to proceed on a foreclosure while in the midst of a loan modification.
In short, these bills level the playing field between struggling families and big banks. It means the banks won’t be able to get away with many of the tricks and traps they’ve used for years.
This was a huge victory for the hundreds of Oregonians who stood up and spoke out, calling on Republican leaders to pass meaningful reforms. This broad public outcry came from every corner of the state, and it’s why GOP leaders were finally forced to side with Oregon families, rather than with lobbyists for the banking industry.
Kudos to Economic Fairness Oregon and other advocacy groups who worked hard during this session to make sure the needs of struggling families were met.
In the last three years, around 15% of jobs in public schools have been lost. Another recent estimate shows a loss of 4,000 teachers statewide. At the same time, class sizes have increased by as much as 19%.
The good news is that legislators held the K12 budget at $5.725 billion for the 2011-13 budget cycle. In theory, at least, that means no further cuts to local schools.
But the budget is down from the 09-11 budget of $5.783, and significantly down from the 07-09 budget of $6.3 billion. And it’s $3 billion down from the funding required to meet the state’s own definition of a “quality education.”