Legislative Report - September Interim
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By Jean Pierce
With repayments of federal loans restarting this month, it is important for those who incurred student debt to access information addressing their questions and concerns. Borrowers need to be aware of different repayment plans as well as pathways to loan forgiveness, and recourse if they suspect fraud.
LWVOR supported the implementation of SB 485 (2021), which addresses licensing of ombuds helping graduates navigate student loans. This legislation is consistent with the Oregon League’s position that the State General Fund should give high priority to financial aid for students.
Borrowers struggling with student loan debt are encouraged to contact the student loan ombuds at DFR.firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-877-4894.
We anticipate legislation addressing Oregon’s financial aid programs’ limitations could do more to promote equitable access to higher education. The House Interim Education heard testimony relating to the League’s position: “If state funding necessitates limiting access to community colleges, such limitation should consider equity as well as financial need.”
The committee heard testimony describing the Oregon Promise Grant (OPG), which covers community college tuition costs for students entering those institutions directly from high school. Seventy percent of the awards granted have been to families which have been able to contribute only $2000 or less to the costs. League members can expect legislation addressing the following issues:
OPGs are only available to students who enter community colleges immediately after graduating high school. This is a problem, since the average community college student age is 26-27.
OPGs only cover winter and spring semesters if a student entered in the fall. This is a problem, since many students apply when they are laid off, which could be at any time during the year.
Currently, because of university grants and the broader scope of state grants for university students, out-of-pocket costs are actually higher for students attending community colleges than for students attending other institutions which cost twice as much. Costs include housing, food, and transportation are not addressed by OPG.
By Anne Nesse
“A few weeks ago the Census Bureau released the poverty figures. And nationally, child poverty more than doubled — the largest increase in more than 50 years”…from OCPP.
Based on policy analysts at the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), Oregon calculated the same increase in poverty of families using a more complete measure of poverty today, “the United Way’s ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Index. Unlike the poverty line, ALICE takes into account all essentials: housing, child care, food, transportation, and more. It reflects what it actually takes to live and work in the modern economy. According to the most recent ALICE data, more than two in every five Oregonians live below that threshold.”
The Human Services Committee met on 9/27/23 and included testimony on meeting needs of lower-income families with childcare needs and the official launch of the Dept. of Early Learning and Care (DELC). Alyssa Chatterjee and the operating manager introduced the new website. They have successfully launched $370M in grants and are now processing applications in 4 weeks, 84% of the time. As of November 4th, there will be a waitlist for ERDC (Employment Related Day Care). They are currently attempting to serve 14,000 families of lower incomes, with 4,000 families on the waitlist and a 52% caseload increase. There are special groups, TANF/TA/DVS (domestic violence survivors), who do not have to be on the waitlist and are given priority. Rep. Reynolds asked about how we were anticipating dealing with the increased demand and Rep. Hieb asked about prolonged phone wait times. Ms. Chatterjee stated she had notified the Budget Committee and that DELC was on track to increase the budget and decrease wait times so that hopefully no family would be turned away.
House Education met on 9/27/23, addressing equity in education, health and mental health care, summer programs, as well as increasing outdoor time for students with volunteer programs, see meeting video.
First on the agenda was Medicaid funding for special education and other Medicaid billable areas that no longer have limitations. This established the lack of licensed nursing practitioners in schools and the need to improve billing systems methods, along with establishing a more consistent statewide IEP system so all the health and mental health needs of our students can be better met. Measure 98 implementation was next, designed to increase graduation rates along with providing career and technical education (CTE). It was noted that although graduation rates were up to 93% in CTE programs, Oregon was still below most states on expenditures in CTE and 10X lower than Washington State. Summer learning program losses were presented by Parasa Chanrany of COSA (Coalition of Oregon School Administrators). She quantified the losses to half in a number of areas critical to providing equity for children and parents living with fewer resources. Finally Rep. Gomberg introduced The Cascade Head Biosphere Collaborative, which includes a volunteer group, encouraging more outdoor education, and is requesting funding for increased education about natural resources.
The Joint Committee on Public Education Appropriations (JCPEA) met 9/8/23 and reviewed some issues the Dept. of Education faces concerning equity in education, within Oregon’s 197 school districts. See meeting materials and the meeting video.
Find individual presentations by clicking on links inside the agenda, including the “Oregon School Budget 2024-25” and “what our goals in K-12 education are.” This meeting included Post-Secondary Education, as well as the Early Learning System. An Overview of the Quality Education Model, with Melissa Goff, Education Policy Advisor from the Office of the Governor, was presented.
Let’s end this report with something positive in education, because some parents may soon be asking about their student’s lower test scores in reading and math. Local teachers may be questioning their profession by striking. There are current questions circulating at the Dept. of Education and the Legislature on what best represents the requirements that our students should meet for an Oregon High School Diploma. So take a moment and look back to 1969, when Mr. Rogers testified to a Federal Senate SubCommittee on Communications for increased funding. The poem he wrote with the kid’s help at the end is particularly endearing.