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Legislative Report - Week of 2/13

By Anne Nesse, Education Portfolio

House Education held several public hearings on mental health related Bills significant to the Governor’s Budget goal, this last week.

Rep. Nancy Nathanson and the Oregon Education Association presented a fundamental data gathering survey Bill HB 2656-2, on mental health on 2/8. It was introduced to give the state crucial data for making decisions. If the Bill succeeds, students of appropriate grade levels will take a 20 min., private information survey, about the feelings they have about their education: ‘does the student feel safe at school?’, ‘are there people they can talk to and ask for help?’, ‘are there clubs they would like to be in at school?’, ‘do they have sufficient time to gather with their peers?’, is the student sometimes coming to school hungry?’. These are mental health and wellness questions that the legislature needs to know to determine which school districts and counties might need more legislative help with curriculum and funding. We presently lack his data. It was stated and answered at the end of the hearing that within Oregon Law, this can become an opt-out survey program (parents may opt out), increasing the data base of the present opt-in program, which gives us only 32% of needed data. An OEA representative, several teachers, and many others testified in support. See the hearing: we encourage you to listen to Rep. Nathanson’s presentation.

HB 2643 was also heard in House public hearing this last week, a review and revision of current suicide prevention law, and HB 2646, a program to train school employees in the observation of mental health issues, within a limited scope.

A group of bipartisan Bills was introduced in public hearing 2/7 by Senate ED. These covered enforcement of Federal Law, involving the supervisory law needed for Oregon Department of Education, State and local superintendents, and school boards to assure disabled students of all kinds receive an appropriate education. Bills included were: SB 819, SB 821, SB 290, SB 291. SB 289 was introduced directing the Department of Education to determine if a school district or education service district is standard, and can function under current law. Several committee members determined this Bill needed more clarification.

Work sessions were held on several Bills in Senate Education 2/9, several to go to W&Ms, but all voted with “Do Pass recommendations to the floor” with overall agreement. A public hearing was held on SB 129, to extend sunset for credit for certified Opportunity Grant contributions, with a recommendation from the Legislative Council to add one amendment. A number of college students testified on how important these Opportunity Fund Grants were to their higher education, based on corporate and individual tax incentives for contributions to the fund.

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