Oregon reading programs may see a 50% cut to state funding

SALEM, Ore. – The state’s budget writers revealed this week just how deep cuts may go if new revenue can’t be found, and education could be taking a big hit.

Oregon is facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

The writers’ proposal cuts off health insurance for 350,000 adult Oregonians, closes the state mental hospital in Junction City, as well as a ward in Salem and delays some equipment upgrades for Oregon State Police.

Education also takes a hit in the budget. Both pre-k and college programs are facing deep cuts.

Among them, Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) and the Oregon Promise Program.

While the budget hasn’t been approved, school districts and education programs are bracing themselves.

The current budget framework includes various sectors of education including reading programs.

One of which is SMART. The program has been in a number of Oregon schools for the past 25 years, pairing students with community members and providing books to students to take home as well.

But with Oregon Legislature calling for a potential 50% budget cut, they’re left with their pages turning.

Seeing the potential for nearly half of your funds to be reduced doesn’t make it any easier for SMART executive director Chris Otis. He said, “Certainly, those of us who are interested in education are looking at the numbers and cringing slightly. It’s always tough when you have limited resources.”

The statewide program has been around for more than a quarter of a century and has a total budget of approximately $3.7 million.

“A budget cut of any size makes it more challenging for us,” Otis said. “it’s tough for everyone to see the potential cuts in the budget. Certainly because we can see the impact in what we’re bringing to the mix.”

About 90% of their overall budget comes from foundations and individuals, but if a large cut does cut to their state funding–and it could be as much as 50%–they’ll need more help than ever from their supporters.

While nothing has been finalized by the legislature’s budget writers, SMART executives are hoping things will look up.

Otis said, “We continue to be hopeful that our elected officials will find their way through this and continue to maintain our services and those like us in the education arena.”

Other parts of education funding that may be affected by the proposed budget include reducing funding to programs like farm to school, early learning hubs, Reach Out to Read and many more.

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