Common School Fund
value as of June 30, 2015:
CSF Fact Sheet
January 2016 Distribution
July 2015 Distribution
March 2015 Distribution
2012 Financial Statements
The act of Congress admitting Oregon to the Union in 1859 granted sections 16 and 36 in every township "for the use of schools." The provision of land for educational purposes was a practical solution for the developing nation that was "land rich, but cash poor."
In Oregon, Congress granted roughly six percent of the new state´s land-nearly 3.4 million acres-for the support of schools. Due to various circumstances, about 700,000 acres remain in state ownership today.
These lands and their mineral and timber resources, as well as other resources under the State Land Board´s jurisdiction (including the submerged and submersible lands underlying the state´s tidal and navigable waterways) are managed "with the object of obtaining the greatest benefit for the people of this state, consistent with the conservation of this resource under sound techniques of land management."
- Rangelands are leased to ranchers for grazing sheep and cattle.
- Forestlands are managed for timber production.
- Waterways are leased for uses such as sand and gravel extraction, houseboats, marinas and log rafts. The rents and royalties received from these activities are deposited in the Common School Fund, a trust fund for the benefit of Oregon´s K-12 public schools.
Other sources of money contributing to the Common School Fund include:
- Escheats -- property reverting to the state on an individual´s death because no heir or will exists or can be found;
- Unclaimed property, while the agency searches for the rightful owner;
- Gifts to the state not designated for some other purpose;
- Tax revenues from the production, storage, use, sale or distribution of oil and natural gas; and
- 5% of the proceeds from the sale of federal lands.
The State Treasurer and the Oregon Investment Council invest the Common School Fund. In recent years, fund values have ranged from $600 million-$1 billion, depending on market conditions.
In addition, the Land Board must consider the issue of "intergenerational equity" in its distribution policies. Fund distributions cannot benefit current students at the disadvantage of future students, or vice-versa.
In early 2005, the State Land Board announced a record $45.6 million distribution of earnings from the Common School Fund to all K-12 public schools and voted to modify the future distribution policy for the fund. The turnaround in the stock market during 2004 created a significant increase in the value of the Common School Fund which reached $1 billion in February 2006.
Changes to Oregon law and the investment policies of the State Land Board beginning in the late 1980s significantly boosted earnings flowing to schools.
A 1988 Constitutional Amendment allowed investment of the Common School Fund in the stock market, subject to a legislatively-established investment cap of 50 percent. The 1997 Legislature increased the cap to 65 percent. That timely shift in strategy has nearly quadrupled the fund value due to growth of the stock market and revenues generated from land management.
In 2009, the State Land Board adopted a distribution policy that distributes 4% of the average balance of the preceding 3 years. If the average balance of the fund has increased by 11% or more, the distribution shall be 5% of the average balance of the preceding 3 years.
Legislation passed in 2005 directed the Oregon Department of Education to send CSF revenues directly to Oregon's 197 K-12 public school districts.