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Home > Education > Public Education in Oregon

Public Education in Oregon

The White River and Mt. Hood from near Highway 35. (Oregon State Archives photo)

The White River and Mt. Hood from near Highway 35. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

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In 2011, Governor Kitzhaber proposed the creation of a seamless system of education from birth through college and career designed to accelerate student achievement. To lead the building of, and coordination within the system, the Legislature created the Chief Education Officer position led by the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB).

The Legislature created the OEIB by passing Senate Bill 909. In addition, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 253, which set out the “40-40-20” goal to be accomplished by 2025:

• 40 percent of adult Oregonians shall have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher,
• 40 percent shall have earned an associate’s degree or postsecondary credential, and
• 20 percent or fewer shall have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent.

To implement this goal, the board, with leadership from the chief education officer, has prioritized system-wide coordination and measurable outcomes. As Oregon’s demographics change, the education system must respond to meet each student’s desired outcome. Students must have equal access to great teachers, schools and leaders who foster their curiosity and drive. Teachers, administrators, and parents must work together.


The board identified critical milestones and transitions in students’ experiences that predict long-term success: making investments so more students are ready to learn when they enter school, classrooms experience less chronic absenteeism, more third graders are reading at or above grade level, more ninth graders are on track with credits and strong attendance records, high school graduation rates increase, and more Oregonians earn degrees and certificates that lead to high wage and high demand jobs. As students move through the system, measures must help ensure that students can successfully transition from grade-to-grade or school-to-school.


The OEIB is chaired by the governor and led by Chief Education Officer Dr. Nancy Golden. Board members are Julia Brim-Edwards, Dr. Yvonne Curtis, Matthew Donnegan, Dr. Samuel Henry, Nichole June Maher, Dr. Mark Mulvihill, Ron Saxton, David Rives, Dr. Mary Spilde, Kay Toran, Hanna Vaandering and Dick Withnell.


The education system, alone, cannot affect the changes necessary to improve student outcomes. Partnerships with communities, establishing cross-sector collaborations to most effectively support student success, are being activated. To facilitate the new partnerships, the OEIB created 12 Regional Achievement Collaboratives and six science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) hubs throughout the state. The Early Learning Council created 16 early learning hubs throughout the state.


One of the OEIB’s primary responsibilities is to manage the key student transitions between educational agencies, such as from early learning to kindergarten and from high school to college or career. In particular, the OEIB will lead the early learning system, elementary schools and community partners around the state in a focused initiative designed to prepare students to be strong readers by third grade. When reading at benchmark by third grade, students are four times less likely to drop out of high school.


Statewide Outcomes

Through achievement compacts with school districts, community colleges and universities, the OEIB has established key outcome metrics:

• more children are ready for kindergarten,
• more students read proficiently by third grade,
• more students have strong attendance and are on track with credit attainment in ninth grade,
• more students graduate from high school and earn college completion, and
• more Oregonians earn certificates and degrees that lead to rewarding jobs.

The board has oversight of all state education agencies, including:

The Oregon Early Learning Division (ELD), established within the Department of Education, is charged with creating a more coordinated service delivery system in an effort to improve kindergarten readiness and achieve Governor’s Kitzhaber’s 40-40-20 vision for the 190,294 at-risk children ages 0–6 across Oregon.

The Department of Education (ODE), oversees education for more than 560,000 students in Oregon’s K–12 education system and is in charge of public preschool programs through its new Early Learning Division. It also oversees the School for the Deaf, regional programs for children with disabilities, and other out-of-school-time programs through the Youth Development Division.

The Youth Development Division (YDD) was established within the Department of Education and is charged with developing state-level policy and administering funding to support community-based youth development programs, services and initiatives. The division plays an important role to support priority and opportunity youth getting back on the path to college and/or career.

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) was first convened in 2011, and the Legislature established the HECC as an agency in 2013 through consolidating existing authorities that were spread across multiple agencies and boards. This consolidation provided Oregonians a single public forum and point of coordination for higher education issues in Oregon. In fall 2013, about 243,000 students were enrolled in Oregon's 17 public community colleges and seven public universities.

2013–2015 Legislatively Approved K–12 Funding by Source


2013–2015 Legislatively Approved K–12 Funding by Source

Source: Legislative Fiscal Office

Education Funding
Oregon has struggled with funding public education since Measure 5 passed in 1990. The property tax limitations enacted under Measure 5 and, later, Measures 47 and 50 shifted the primary burden of paying for K–12 education from local property tax to the General Fund. That shift led the 1991 Legislature to establish a school funding equalization formula. That funding formula, largely based on student enrollment numbers and student demographics, determines how much funding school districts receive from the State School Fund to fill the gap between the district’s local revenue and its equalization target under the formula.

For the 2013–2014 school year, the State School Fund is providing $4.786 billion to support Oregon schools, districts, and Oregon’s 17 education service districts. Federal and Other Funds are providing an additional $1.022 billion.

Nearly $5.5 million federal funds from the Race to the Top Fund and $2.2 million from the Child Care and Development Fund, directed to the Early Learning Division, will be used for the Employment Related Day Care program, administered by the Department of Human Resources. Also, the Legislative Revenue Office estimates school districts and Educational Service Districts will receive $89 million from property taxes and other local revenues more than the original estimate for the 2013–2015 biennium.

In the 1990s, as Measure 5 was phased in, increased General Funds were dedicated to education. However, in recent years, K–12 and post secondary funding has been squeezed, both as the result of general budget cuts during the recession and, also, as felony corrections and social services costs grew.

Education-related investments include supporting a range of services, from youth corrections education and career/technical education, to special programs designed to meet the needs of Oregon’s disabled students, students of color, and rural communities.

Ten years ago, students paid approximately 56 percent of the incoming funds at Oregon’s universities through tuition and fees, but by 2013–2014, tuition and fees represented 73 percent of incoming funds while the state appropriations percentage declined. Similarly, in 2002–2013, students paid approximately 30 percent of incoming funds at Oregon’s community colleges, and by 2012–2013, the student percentage through tuition and fees was 47 percent.

In the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development budget, the combined General and Lottery Funds 2013–2015 Legislatively Adopted Budget of $490.9 million represents an increase of $65.3 million, or 15.3 percent, over the 2011–2013 Legislatively Approved Budget.

Primary reasons for this growth are a $54.2 million General Fund increase in the Community College Support Fund and a $7.5 million General Fund workforce initiative.

The state provides support for the seven public universities’ instructional and research missions, primarily through the Public University Support Fund, the Sports Action Lottery program, as well as through the capital debt service and bonding capacity. The public service mission of the seven institutions is supported through the Public University State Programs fund. Oregon State University’s Statewide Public Service programs, the Extension Service, the Forest Research Laboratory and the Agricultural Experiment Station are supported by the state and various other community and governmental partners.

During the 2013 Special Session, the Legislature increased General Fund support for the Oregon University System by $25 million to limit projected tuition increases for resident undergraduates during 2014 and 2015.


2013–2015 General Fund and Lottery Funds

Total: $16.8 Billion; Total Education: $8.6 Billion


2013–2015 General Fund and Lottery Funds


Source: Legislative Fiscal Office


Early Learning in Oregon
The 2011 Legislature created the Early Learning Council (ELC), a governor-appointed policy and rulemaking body charged with creating a more coordinated service delivery system in an effort to improve kindergarten readiness and achieve Governor’s Kitzhaber’s 40-40-20 vision for the 190,294 at-risk children ages 0–6 across Oregon. In 2013, the Legislature formed the Early Learning Division to carry out this work overseen by the council. The division also includes the Office of Child Care.


The division’s priorities include: ensuring quality early learning environments through the implementation of the Quality Rating Improvement System; improving early literacy; increasing alignment between early childhood education and early elementary education; increasing alignment between early childhood education and health care; and providing early learning services to families through home visiting (Healthy Families Oregon and Early Head Start), respite care (Oregon Relief Nurseries) and high quality pre-school (Oregon Pre-Kindergarten Program).


The division is also responsible for implementing Early Learning Hubs — Oregon’s new community-based service delivery system — across the state.


The ELC, a 17-member, volunteer board oversees early learning policy for the state and provides strategic direction to the division. Council members are Chair Pam Curtis, Harriet Adair, Vikki Bishop, Janet Dougherty-Smith, Dana Hargunani, Charles McGee, Salam Noor, Eva Rippeteau, Christa Rude, Lynne Saxton, Norm Smith, Teri Thalhofer, Jim Tierney, Bobby Weber, Kim Williams, Dick Withnell, and Marlene Yesquen.


K–12 Education in Oregon
In the 2013–2014 school year, there were 567,000 students in Oregon’s public K–12 schools. There are more than 28,000 teachers working in Oregon’s 1,200 public schools, in 197 school districts, led by locally elected school boards.


More than half of Oregon public school students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, up 10 percent in the last decade. Students of color represent about 35 percent of Oregon’s student population. The fastest growing student subgroup continues to be Hispanic students, representing 22 percent of the overall student population.


About 10 percent of Oregon’s students are non-native English speakers. The most common first language for these students is Spanish, followed by Russian, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Oregon students and their families speak more than 150 languages.


Oregon’s four-year high school graduation rate is 68.7 percent, and the one-year dropout rate is 3.98 percent.


2011–2012 Education K–12 Funding by Source


2011–2012 Education K–12 Funding by Source

Source: Department of Education

The governor serves as the superintendent of schools and appoints a deputy to lead the work of the Department of Education. In 2015, Governor Kate Brown appointed Salam Noor to serve as the Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for K–12 education. The department works closely with the State Board of Education.


The department and the state board focus on helping school districts achieve both local and statewide goals and priorities through strategies such as developing policies and standards, providing accurate and timely data to inform instruction, training teachers to use data effectively, administering numerous state and federal grants, and sharing and helping districts implement best practices. The goals of the department include graduating our students college and career ready, closing the achievement gap, improving teacher and administrator effectiveness, increasing performance for all schools and districts, and contributing to a strong, seamless education system from early childhood through higher education.


State Board of Education
The Legislature created the State Board of Education in 1951 to oversee the state’s schools and community colleges. The board sets educational policies and standards for Oregon's 197 public school districts, 17 community college districts, and 20 educational service districts. All of these agencies have separate governing bodies responsible for transacting business within their jurisdictions.


The seven-member board is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Five members represent Oregon’s five congressional districts, and two members represent the state at large. Members serve four-year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms. Board members elect their chair each year. The state board meets at least six times per year and the public is welcome to attend meetings.


The board adopted graduation requirements demonstrating proficiency in essential skills for reading in 2012, writing in 2013 and math in 2014.


Board members are Miranda Summer, Chair (2017); Angela Bowen (2016); Jerome Colonna (2018);
Samuel Henry (2016); Charles R. Martinez, Jr. (2017); Anthony Veliz (2017). One position is vacant. The secretary of state and state treasurer are ex officio members.