Legislative Report - Week of 3/13
By Anne Nesse, Education Portfolio
Senate Education held hearings on an educational plan to begin curriculum design for climate change study, within all subjects, grades K-12, available for the entire state. Justice and saving lives was also in the forefront.
This curriculum for climate education Bill, SB 854, was well represented on 3/9 by Co-Sponsors Sen. Patterson, and Sen. Manning. The purpose of this Bill was quite clearly stated: this is about our species survival on a healthy planet, and it represents an important vote. Several members of the Oregon Educators for Climate Education (OECE) were also interviewed that day on the front page of the Oregonian. LWV submitted written testimony in support here. A recording of the hearing includes the introduction of the Bill here by Senators, and OECE members included with student testimony here. There were well over 100 written testimonies in support of this Bill.
Senate Education also heard Sen. Campos introduce SB 600, a $4.8 M Bill to resolve legal problems, like eviction, and domestic violence for low income clients, utilizing mediation. Law students, advisory attorneys, and low income clients testified to the life saving justice this can provide.
SB 551, was introduced on 3/7 in Senate Education, by Sen. Sollman, a bill that hopes to bring some additional education to parents and students on safer gun and medication storage. This information would be placed on the school district’s website, and social media sites, and take effect throughout the state. LWVOR wrote testimony by Marge Easley, here, and I added some virtual testimony, on Oregon statistics from 2022, showing a significantly higher rate of youth suicides, compared to national statistics. Oregon has unusually higher statistics on this kind of data, year after year. The average rate for youth suicide deaths nationally in 2022 was 14.2 youth per 100,000, while Oregon’s youth suicide death rate was much larger at 18.5 youth per 100,000, sourced from americahealthrankings.org, therefore increasing the need for this kind of education on websites, throughout our state.
SB 238 was introduced by Sen. Gorsek, asking the Oregon Health Authority, and State Board of Education and Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to collaborate on developing curricula supplements related to synthetic opioids dangers, including fentanyl or any substituted derivative of fentanyl, and counterfeit, and fake drugs. This hearing was very emotional, as it began with a family who had lost a son to one dose of fentanyl, hidden within what he thought was a medication that might help his chronic anxiety symptoms. listen here to the overwhelming support this Bill had.
Senate Education also heard SB 48 -2, on 3/7, sponsored by Sen. Findley and Rep. Mannix. This Bill will develop a successful process for dealing with chronic truancy in our public schools, now reaching an unfortunate 36.1%. It was agreed by many on the committee that actually enforcing consequences helped the student and the family deal with this problem, as was proven in the past, when a better Oregon law was in place. Also presented by Rep. Mannix was SB 49, a study Bill to explore funding means throughout the state for competition-size swimming pools at every high school. It was stated that Oregon ranked the 13th highest in the nation for drownings. And testimony was given that we simply were not investing statewide in early swimming education for Oregon children.
On 3/6 House Education heard HB 3031, (identical to SB 414), to assess and study all state school ventilation systems, as well as CO2 monitors, to determine if they meet health standards. It was testified by experts in the state that the end result of this Bill would likely have little fiscal impact, and possibly even a net increase in revenue. The Bill would likely provide career opportunities for installation of HVAC systems, federal funding, look towards reduction of operating costs of schools, decrease energy costs, and eventually have an effect on increasing attendance in schools. Rural contractors can do this, and it is required that workers hired for this purpose will make a living wage. A companion bill, HB 2638, requires goals for air conditioning, heating, and cooling requirements, with HVAC in all schools statewide, by 2029.
Class size in negotiation of contracts with teachers in all districts, statewide HB 2703, was also discussed in House Education. Currently it was agreed by law that only the Title 1 schools were given special consideration because this was where the highest degree of need was. Morgan Allen, COSA Director, and OSBA Director were opposed, based on making sure the greatest need schools were served first. They both stated, it is always possible for other school districts to include class size as a part of contract negotiation. A number of teachers and OEA supported the Bill.
House Education heard several Bills on 3/8. HB 3288 -1 on requiring ODE and school districts to collect data on race, ethnicity, languages, sexual preferences, and disabilities, in standardized manner throughout the state, so that legislative decision making can be improved.
HB 3068 allows a student, with parental approval, and has received a certificate for passage of the General Educational Development (GED) exam, who is 16 yrs. old and in grades 11 or 12, to receive a high school diploma. The testimony for this Bill was presented by Tom Holt. It will serve students who know what they want to study in post-secondary education or career goals, allowing them to move out of high school towards their goals. HB 3204 -1 attempts to change the timelines for when a student can receive approval to enroll in a virtual public charter school, not sponsored by the local school district, (and subject to the 3% cap), from several weeks to a shorter timeline. Morgan Allen, from COSA, testified that the deadline of 5 business days, as stated in the law, would be difficult to meet.