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Legislative Report - Week of 2/27

By Anne Nesse, Education Portfolio

Informative hearings were held concerning our State Treasury, and a proposed plan to decrease carbon-intensive investments in favor of a cleaner energy economy. We also heard informative reports on statewide early childhood care.

On Thursday, 2/16, LWVOR submitted written testimony on HB 2601. I delayed posting this, as our virtual testimony was delayed, due to the number of persons testifying, and then delayed due to the winter storms. The committee chair has promised to hear all previously registered virtual testimony. A copy of our written testimony is linked here. Rep. Pham, a Chief Sponsor of the Bill, presented a convincing case for support, recorded here. Her testimony included graphs on the increased performance of non-fossil fuel related stocks, creating increased returns for our State Treasury, and increased PERS benefits. Rep. Pham ended with the statement that current fossil free investments are showing returns on investment 5X greater than more carbon intensive investments. Rep. Golden, and Rep. Gamba testified in support, as well as a coalition of representatives from the organizing group, Divest Oregon, which includes the OEA and 100 other state groups. Only a few testifiers were not in support, or suggested amendments. This bill also brought support from the former New York Controller, Tom Sazillo, testifying on how well New York State was proceeding in its transition towards a fossil free economy, within its investment portfolio.

The House Committee on Early Childhood and Human Services held an informational hearing on Home-Based Child Care throughout the state on 2/20. Joe Baessler, Ass. Director, Oregon AFSCME, presented a well documented report, along with others. It was obvious that home-based care is the most flexible type of child care for workers living with unusual work schedules, or who ride the bus. These home-based child care centers (10, or up to 16 children), are all licensed by the state. Workers are trained and complete CME to remain licensed. It was reported there are however major issues, with ERDC, Employment Related Daycare, including late or missing payments, and no health care or retirement benefits adequately reward workers. Not all our new providers even know about our ERDC Program. It was reported that, “Infant care is very difficult to find, every county is a child care desert, and 70% of counties are child care deserts for 3-5 yr. olds.” The greatest problem is finding, maintaining, and paying the workforce adequately Mr. Baessler stated. “Without a workforce, more facility space is useless.” Then 3 Bills were heard to help increase the workforce, through the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC): HB 2991, HB 2504, and HB 3029. It was unclear how these Bills would positively affect the childcare workforce to meet present needs. We are also reminded that near the start of this session SB 599-A, which was written last session to increase the renters’ ability to create child care centers in approved rental units, had passed on the floor of the Senate, 27-3. It will now move to the House. Some follow-up work was done in this Committee on 2/22, as well as a few other bills introduced.

House Education also met on 2/20. There were a lot of kids with bike helmets supporting HB 3014 in a public hearing to amend the statute about the way we are allowed to fund transportation to school, or for after school activities. These amendments could fund free transit, and “walking, or bike riding school bus programs”, to allow safer transport of children to and from school. I understand this is to involve adults supervising students who walk or bicycle to school. These statutes have not been changed or evaluated since 1991. We may be able to apply for additional funding from the Dept. of Transportation. Amendments may be needed.

House Education also held a public hearing on HB 2189, the need for TSPC to ensure pathways to hire otherwise qualified individuals to teach Career and Technical Education (CTE) in some districts.

In Senate Education 2/21, a work session was held on SB 819, awaiting -3 or -5 amendments, on what is considered restricted access to a school day, especially important for teachers, students, and parents to have a voice in these decisions. This Committee also discussed SB 414, to establish ventilation system assessments throughout our state, in order to increase the circulation of air in classrooms, and bring them up to date for health standards. Lori Sattenspiel, from OSBA (Oregon School Board Association), reminds us of the millions of dollars this will require throughout our state, and that federal dollars may be necessary. Amendments may still be needed?

Rep. Neron, on 2/21 in Senate Education, introduced SB 426, a Bill requiring ODE to give technical assistance to school districts for integrated pest management plans. Both Morgan Allen from COSA (Coalition of Oregon School Administrators), and Lori Sattenspiel from OSBA recommended amendments.

House Education 2/22, introduced HB 3037, in public hearing, directing OSU Extension Service to collaborate and collect data along with ODE, relevant to the students who participate in outdoor school. Sen. Weber, Sen. Dembrow, and Rep. Wright, as well as many others, all testified as to how life changing Oregon Outdoor School has been for their own children, and grandchildren. It was generally stated that this schooling occurs at an opportune time for students during 5-6th grade, is based on “hands on science and exploration of the environment”, and creates lasting bonds for many students. This particular bill is for data collection, to make sure we are not leaving some students out of this important facet of their education. The remainder of the week canceled hearings due to inclement weather.

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