Parents, students rally for school aid in Oregon

SALEM, Ore. -- Parents, students and teachers from around Oregon traveled by the busload to the state Capitol yesterday to press their case for increased state funding for local schools.

The education boosters, carrying signs and chanting "no more cuts," decried Gov. Ted Kulongoski's $5 billion funding proposal as inadequate to prevent larger class sizes and a shorter school year in some places.

Organizers said the rally drew more than 2,000 people to the front steps of the Capitol, although Rusty Wolfe, a state police trooper assigned to the Capitol, said he thought the number was closer to 1,000.

Various speakers said it will take a sustained lobbying effort to persuade legislators to boost the amount of state aid to schools.

Last week, Lottery Director Dale Penn recommended that bar and tavern commissions on new slot-machine style video games be about one-half the average rate now paid on video poker.

The difference between the current rate for video poker and Penn's proposed rate for video slot games is about $70 million, officials say.

"This could generate tens of millions of dollars for schools," said Christine Ertl, a member of the advocacy group Stand for Children.

At this point, devoting more lottery revenue to schools seems more likely than trying to find new tax revenue for schools.

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