Public Education

Wallowa High School building made of red brick
Wallowa High School in Wallowa. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

Important Web links

Overview

Oregon has 197 public school districts, operating a total of 1,246 public schools. For the school year 2017–2018, the teaching staff working in Oregon’s public schools numbered the equivalent of 30,193 full-time positions. The average student/teacher classroom ratio was 19.2 to 1 (national average: 16 to 1).
 
Public schools enrolled 580,690 students from kindergarten through grade 12 (K–12), of which:

  • 37.6 percent of students were students of color (national average: 48 percent); 
  • 52.1 percent of students qualified for free or reduced price lunches (national average: 44.1 percent); 
  • 13.3 percent of students were in Special Education (national average: 13 percent); and
  • 8.7 percent of students were English Language Learners (national average: 9.5 percent).

2017–2019 Legislatively Approved K–12 Funding by Source chart

2017–2019 Legislatively Approved K–12 Funding by Source

Source: Department of Education
Oregon’s combined state and local share of the K–12 education budget was $6.53 billion for the year ending June 30, 2017.

Sources:

NEA Rankings of the States 2017 & Estimates of School Statistics 2018 
U.S Department of Agriculture, 2016–17
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16

Chief Education Office

The office was created in 2015 for the purpose of building a seamless system of education from birth to college and career. The office directs and coordinates multi-agency planning and stakeholder convening, to eliminate barriers impeding student success, and works to increase educational equity and opportunity for all students and education settings.
 
The office is focused on ensuring that every student in the state graduates from high school, and that Oregon reaches its “40-40-20” goal of 40 percent of students completing a two-year degree, 40 percent completing a four-year degree and 20 percent graduating from high school career ready. These goals reflect a shared commitment by the state and education groups to create the conditions for students to pursue an education and career path meaningful to them. A target date of 2025 has been set for reaching the “40-40-20” goal. 

State Board of Education

The board sets educational policies and standards for Oregon’s public school districts and educational service districts. It provides leadership and vision by enacting equitable policies and promoting educational practices that help students achieve success in school and life.

The board has up to seven members appointed to four-year terms by the governor. Board members are Anthony Veliz, Chair (term ends 2021); 

Kimberly Howard, Vice-Chair (2020); Modesta Minthorn, Second Vice-Chair (2020); Jerome Colonna, (2022); Charles R. Martinez, Jr. (2021); and George Russell (2020).

Department of Education

The governor acts as the superintendent of schools. The governor has authority to appoint a deputy superintendent of public instruction to run the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). 

ODE oversees Oregon’s public K–12 education system and encompasses the Early Learning Division, Youth Development Division, Oregon School for the Deaf and other programs. 

For more information, see ODE’s entry in the Executive section.

2017–2019 General Fund and Lottery Funds chart

2017–2019 General Fund and Lottery Funds

Total: $21.08 Billion; Total Education: $11.01 Billion

Source: Legislative Fiscal Office

Education Funding

2016–2017 Education K–12 Revenue by Source chart

2016–2017 Education K–12 Revenue by Source

Source: Department of Education
Money to support public education in grades K–12 comes from state income taxes, the lottery fund, local revenues primarily consisting of property taxes, and federal funds. Historically, the largest source of funding had been local property taxes, but this changed dramatically in 1990 when voters passed Measure 5, which lowered the amount of property taxes dedicated to schools. By the 1995–1996 school year, local property taxes for education were limited to $5 per every $1,000 of a property’s assessed real market value. In 1997, voters passed Measure 50, which further limited local property taxes for schools by placing restrictions on assessed valuation of property and property tax rates. The effect of these measures was to shift the bulk of public school funding from local property taxes to Oregon’s General Fund, which comes from state income taxes. 

Oregon uses a formula to provide financial equity among school districts. Each school district receives (in combined state and local funds) an allocation per student, plus an additional amount for each student enrolled in more costly programs such as Special Education or English Language Learners.

The 2017–2019 legislatively adopted General Fund and Lottery Funds budget for the Education program area is $10.996 billion. This was an increase of $1.23 billion (or 12.6%) from the 2015–2017 legislatively approved budget. 

The 2018 Final Report from Oregon’s Quality Education Commission (QEC) states, “The State School Fund requirement to fund K-12 schools at a level recommended by the QEC is estimated at $10.734 billion in the 2019-21 biennium, $1.963 billion more than the funding required to maintain the Current Service Level—that is, to simply keep up with inflation and enrollment growth. This funding gap rose from the prior biennium (2017-19), when it was $1.771 billion.” See the Quality Education Commission Reports for more information.