Legislative Report - Week of 1/23
By Anne Nesse
House ED Chair Neron is the chief sponsor of HB2739 written to form a Committee on more stable and sustainable educational funding…providing more accurate calculation of the biennial budget. The hearing was held 1/25. This bill attempts to solve many years of past problems associated with calculating fiscal expenditures needed for the Current Service Level (CSL) for educational costs all over our state. As Chair Neron pointed out, ‘post-secondary and private schools may raise their tuitions when costs go up, but the state needs to calculate the public schools budget without error, knowing all the facts and figures, as well as improvements we need to make. It is a complex math problem. And the differences of calculation have frequently been politicized, as Chair Neron points out, whereas this bill will attempt to create a knowledgeable committee that can make our educational budgets more accurate, and equitable, throughout the state, for all of our children. There was much support for this in the public hearing, including, COSA (Coalition of Oregon School Administrators), OEA (Oregon Education Association), Oregon School Board Association, and several others.
HB2281 House ED held a public hearing on 1/23. Colt Gill reported there has been an increase in discrimination complaints (up 450%), requiring the need for some civil rights coordination within the Dept. of Education. The investigation itself will be done separately by qualified individuals.
HB2280 was also presented, a modification of “consent” language in sexual assault cases. HB2275, a better coordination of all grants that ODE manages, which are many, especially since the Corporate Activities Tax for education took effect.
Senate ED met 1/24 and 1/26. SB531 was introduced by Sen. Dembrow and Sen. Gelser Blouin, to provide more stable funding for summer and after school learning programs, especially designed for students who would not normally receive such benefits, although many who testified recognized that more early planning in January has to occur for increased success. Several legislators have noted that we need to plan for increasing offerings for students with special needs. These programs were community based, and by data often benefitted low income families. All who testified for this bill spoke of the joy Oregon students experience when they are offered more hands-on learning. It was important to note how many non-profit organizations, like Boys and Girls Clubs to name just one, testified on the abilities of communities to help our students thrive in education.
Senate education finished the week 1/26, with information on the Task Force studying underrepresented students in higher education. Senators Dembrow, Frederick, and Wagner spoke on the many difficulties students have working their way through school, without much assistance. At this point no bills are written to address these problems, yet we still hope that we can make some difference at the legislative level.