This is not an unusual season for education administrators in Oregon to be scratching their heads over budgets. This is when they start their planning for the budgets that begin July 1, always a challenge even in calm economic times.
But this week, the administrators we talked to were shaking their heads in disbelief. The "worst case" scenario being sent to them from Salem sources was a request to send some of this year's money back to Salem.
"Can't do it. It's already spent," shrugged Brookings-Harbor School Superintendent John Garner. He had been told the district might need to send back $700,000 from current funds, on top of a $75,000 reduction already enforced when the state cut funds earlier this year.
Dr. Patty Scott, interim president of Southwestern Oregon Community College, told a Brookings audience that the college was being asked to send back $800,000, in addition to $200,000 that was allocated and not sent out from Salem. "We're in discussion about that," she quipped.
They are not alone. Oregon School Superintendent of Education Susan Castillo says a number of Oregon school districts are looking at cutting back the school year already in session, in some cases threatening the legitimacy of some diplomas.
Before the Oregon Legislature asks schools and community colleges to send back money they don't have, threatening classes and courses already in session, it's time to look at the "rainy day" fund they so proudly established in the last session.
This is, under our state's dependence on income taxes, exactly the "rainy day" that was described in creating the Education Stability Fund. Rather than soaking our students with cutbacks and disruption, it's time for the legislature to pop the umbrella.