The public schools enroll 593,000 students: 64% White, 22% Latino, 4% Asian, and 2% African American, with 48% living in poverty, and 9% learning English. The State spends $9,183 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The Legislative Assembly shall provide by law for the establishment of a uniform, and general system of Common schools.” Ore. Const. art. VIII, § 3.
“Provision shall be made by law for the distribution of the income of the common school fund among the several Counties of this state in proportion to the number of children resident therein between the ages, four and twenty years.” Ore. Const. art. VIII, § 4.
“The Legislative Assembly shall appropriate in each biennium a sum of money sufficient to ensure that the state's system of public education meets quality goals established by law, and publish a report that either demonstrates the appropriation is sufficient, or identifies the reasons for the insufficiency, its extent, and its impact on the ability of the state’s system of public education to meet those goals.” Ore. Const. art. VIII, § 8.
In 1976, in Olsen v. State, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to find that education was a fundamental right under the Oregon Constitution and concluded that local control provided sufficient justification for substantial disparities in educational funding and opportunities. The Court held that the requirement for “a uniform and general system of common schools” was satisfied if the State provided minimal educational opportunities in the districts.
However, in 1991, in Coalition for Equitable School Funding, Inc. v. State, the Oregon Supreme Court held that Olsen was no longer relevant because the “people have added a new provision [to the constitution] that addresses specifically how public schools are to be funded.” Since then, however, the people have replaced that provision, also.
In Pendleton School District v. State, in 2009, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that Article VIII, section 3 of the constitution requires the Legislature to establish free public schools that will provide a basic education. The Court also held that Article VIII, section 8, added to the constitution by voters in 2000, “imposes an absolute duty on the legislature to appropriate a specified level of funding for the public school system.” However, the Court found that section 8 also allows the Legislature merely to publish a report on any insufficiency and does not give the Court the authority to order the State to provide sufficient funding.