Legislative Report - Week of 1/30
By Anne Nesse
Senate Education Committee heard two bills of significance this week. The first was about the use of Corporate Tax Kicker (not personal income tax kicker), and the second was about virtual and brick and mortar public charter schools.
SB521, public hearing was held on 1/31,“For purposes of implementing Article IX, section 14 (3), of the Oregon Constitution, if revenues received by the General Fund from the corporate income and excise taxes during the biennium exceed the amount estimated to be received from such taxes for the biennium by two percent or more, the Legislative Assembly shall appropriate an amount equal to the total amount of the excess [to the State School Fund established by ORS 327.008 for apportionment as provided in ORS 327.008] to provide additional funding for kindergarten through grade 12 public education.” And as Sen. Dembrow explains this change in law, would allow us to use these funds for many one time expenditures: like better ventilation systems, air conditioning, other long overdue infrastructure repairs, summer learning programs, or inservice education of our K-12 instructors.
SB767, public hearing was held on 2/2, limiting “the scope by which public charter schools may conduct operations in a school district that is not a sponsor of the public charter school”. This Bill presented a complex picture of public charter schools that are near small school districts, or near boundaries of a specific school district. The Bill, as was stated, requires more discussion and amendments. It was apparent from the testimony, that we are approaching a time when “equity in public education” is competing with “school choice in public education”? We are facing a major discussion among parents, for the rights of their individual child, how we include special needs children, and how to solve that problem within the public school model? At least two testifiers expressed their anger at the current public school system in Oregon: including students using drugs within the school population, student violence within the school population, and teachers being sometimes overworked with large class sizes in addition to low pay and lack of monetary support in general.
House Education Committee heard one significant public hearing on pay increases HB2690, “requiring school districts to pay certified educator salary of not less than $60,000 per year or, if certified educator provides education to students with individualized education program or who are enrolled in special education, not less than $63,000 per year”. Kendall Mason from OEA gave a thorough presentation on how low educational pay in general is throughout Oregon, being the 31st in the nation. And the fact that 60% of state funds for education now rely on the much more volatile income tax, and property taxes. Business managers from school districts testified that this Bill presents monetary challenges, and could easily lead to elimination of many staff positions, defeating the purpose of the Bill. It was pointed out in the hearing that the Governor’s current budget could not fund this Bill, leading to an increased ask of up to 9.9 Billion dollars.
House Committee on Early Childhood Education dealt primarily with human services legislation this week.