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June 6-10, 2022 - Week 6

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Education

By Anne Nesse


Interim Education Committees met to review progress and hopes for improving public education in Oregon in the 2022 legislative session and onward. The Student for Success Act now gives us real money, and hope, several legislators stated. So let’s spend it wisely!



Interim Education Committees


House and Senate Education Committees met together at 2:30PM on June 2. They had an informative session on the K-12 spending Audit, ordered by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. She aptly tells us that her job is “to build trust” in government spending, in an area she personally considers very important for improving the lives of all Oregonians. The audit was designed to stop problems in educational spending before they occur and receive the most benefit we can as a state for the money we spend.


At least 5 risk areas were identified by staff members who worked on the audit, including:


1) Tracking Oregon Department of Education (ODE) performance with accurate data from 197 different school districts throughout the state

2) Requiring more thorough, clearer reporting by school district of improvements, with their subsequent results

3) More rigorous spending scrutiny

4) Clearer enforcement standards and strategies

5) Looking at the large number of individual grants (108) for funds, and the need for more robust interim updates.


Many legislators in the group commented on this audit. Sen. Gelser-Blouin summed up the issue well: “The legislature needs to take more authority over the school districts if we are to improve the quality of education throughout the state. The political battles we wage within the legislature itself on local versus state control are a major roadblock to improvements in education statewide.” Rep. Owen asked Sen. Dembrow to again form a study group on virtual charter school quotas. Rep. Smith-Warner requests we have a shared data system between the state and school districts, to increase clarity.


The House Committee on Early Childhood Education met at 11:30AM, June 1. Changes are in flux, but goals are on target for HB 3073, passed in the 2021 long session for the formation of the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC). One of the biggest problems was brought forward by Dana Hepper of The Children’s Institute. She presented on the lack of statewide quality space for child care: the need for natural daylight indoors, outdoor play space, space that inspires caregivers, less noise, and more colorful surroundings, comfortable temperature and ventilation. Currently we do not have a strategy for the needed growth of quality child care she stated.


HB 2484 failed completion in the short session, to allow renters to create new child care spaces. The Early Childhood Equity Collaborative also pointed out that there are currently no clear pathways to enter the early child care profession. A high school degree may be the only necessity, thus perpetuating the low pay of child care workers, sometimes as low as below minimum wage, and without benefits. All of these factors mentioned, without government intervention, do little to alleviate the chronic shortage of quality child care providers, especially for lower or middle income Oregonians. Yet we all know from research, that quality early child care sets the stage for excellent mental health and education later in life.


Anne Nesse,

Education Portfolio LWV


Please contact me if you would like to help or participate in any way.