Legislative Report - Week of 3/27
By Anne Nesse
Legislative action this week centers on information bringing more equity and quality in education to all students throughout our state. In this month's Oregonian, the Director of Reform Portland Public Schools, a funding advocacy group, published this article.
SB 1045 -2, from the Governor’s Office on the quality of statewide education, was introduced 3/23, in Senate Education. It is a follow up from the Secretary of State’s audit on how we oversee educational quality throughout our state. Itl is designed to find out how best to collect data from school districts on course grades and specific credits attained by students in grades 6-12. Melissa Goff, the Governor’s advisor on education, spoke at the public hearing. These changes will attempt to balance local school board control with state control and the techniques of teaching and tutoring that are known to have a positive track record nationally, and perhaps in the world. Textbook adoption will be among the standards that will be evaluated statewide. Sen. Lew Frederick stated he was looking forward to a broader understanding of our students, not just talking about 3rd grade reading levels, but rather talking about an individual student’s success based on his or her individual developmental path. Melissa Goff states that we will be moving ODE to a more proactive organization, including classifying districts which are not in compliance with state quality standards, to nonstandard classifications. This will be a passive alert and parents will not be notified. Timelines for compliance have been removed, to give school districts 180 days to respond to noncompliance, unless the situation is an emergency, such as child endangerment, or a similar situation. Morgan Allen of COSA, and OSBA, both expressed continued collaboration on this bill. No one has had time to study the -2 amendment fully, and this is a large change being undertaking. They both encouraged some caution as we proceed. Sen. Dembrow closed the hearing on a positive note. He stated that parents often put any blame on their child’s education on the State Legislature and not on the local school board. This bill is therefore a chance to share the burdens equally of providing the best possible research driven education we can possibly accomplish, to every single school district in our state.
SB 416 was also introduced on 3/23 to assist with a long term problem: the need to increase our state funding of post-secondary education, by increasing the salaries of part-time faculty. Testimony included the injustice of “balancing the books of education, on the backs of part-time adjunct faculty.” In addition, a significant Oregonian article this month concerne sexual violence at colleges and universities in our state, and HB 3456. This bill requires Oregon’s public and private colleges and universities to survey students on any sexual misconduct, and provides an amnesty policy for students who report it. It is designed to interrupt this cycle and to support victims. It was reported that bill sponsor Rep. Hartman gave some tearful testimony.
On 3/20 in House Education, HB 3584 was introduced to provide notification for parents when a lockdown occurs at their student’s school. HB 3236 was introduced by Rep. Cramer, for a $2.5 M one time request, to provide increased CTE (career and technical education), at Willamette Career Academy. She and those testifying stated how important this was as a motivator for their education. It was noted that Gresham has a similar program. HB 2751, a task force to study school start times, was positively voted out of committee and will go to the floor.
On 3/21 in Senate Education, Sen. Lew Frederick introduced SB 633, a regional program designed for students who experience disabilities that exceed what can be addressed within the capabilities of the average public school. The proposal is for 3 Centers designed for the entire state, based on the Serendipity School model. This model school has a waiting list, is a transition place for many students, and deals with behaviors and communication problems that are not easily solved in the average public school. As Sen. Frederick reminds us, too many public schools are over burdened with special needs students and are not able to adequately meet those student’s needs. There was mixed testimony. Some research supports inclusion of students with disabilities within their local schools. Also being too far away from home can be an issue. However it was pointed out that Serendipity School only includes students who have failed to adjust to the public system at all.
Sen.Taylor presented 3 Bills in one public hearing, about serving the needs of talented and gifted students. SB 595, requires ODE to transfer 1% funds from the State School Fund into the Talented and Gifted Education Account. She reminded the committee that talented students actually are documented to come from all socioeconomic groups and all ethnicities. A work group formed in the past with no program funding. SB 596 -2 requires all school districts to report data to ODE, on their students identified as talented and gifted. This would include the total number and percentage of talented and gifted students, their general intellectual ability, unusual academic ability in mathematics, unusual academic ability in language arts, creative ability, leadership ability and ability in visual or performing arts, as well as ethnicity and several other criteria.
Sen. Gelser Blouin also introduced SB 756 -1, to assure classified staff have access to records for special education students they have educational responsibilities for. Morgan Allen of COSA, and OSEA were in general support, excepting some disagreement for the -1 amendment, requiring classified attendance at parent teacher conferences on educational plans.
On 3/22, in House Education, Rep. Walters introduced HB 2767 -2, a bill that former Rep. Prusak and Sen. Wagner had initiated. This addresses the research driven method of educating students recovering from addiction, together with other students experiencing the same issue. The example of Harmony Academy was presented, with the plan to make this type of schooling financially stable, at under 50 students in a school setting. It was agreed that State oversight of this program by ODE would not affect its flexibility for the students and the communities this will serve. Rep. McLain introduced HB 3595 -1, a Juvenile Justice Fund Bill, essential to assure stable funding for youth in their education.
A HB 2753 A work session was held on 3/23, allowing school districts to give modest stipends for school board members’ work, if they decide to. This passed and was sent to the floor.
Continuing the 3/23 Senate Education LR, there was a work session on SB 48 -2, a task force to study successful methods of addressing chronic absenteeism from school (truancy). This passed and will go to the floor. SB 275 was introduced, a study to bring agencies of TSPC and Educator Advancement Council together within the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
SB 768 -1 was introduced requiring ODE to study the feasibility of collecting data on the grades of students, in grades 6-12, statewide by Sept. 15, 2024. Sen. Frederick reminded us that already the best predictor of success was not testing, but grades. Many post-secondary and university systems were already allowing students to enter, simply based on grades, a much better predictor of student success. This bill may require ODE to institute a more standardized method of grading students. So they asked Dan Farley, ODE research department, if there were a way to make this more standardized and he stated that there was a way, thus giving us some potential data on our many school district’s differences and trying to give us a better way to see which districts need increased funding for staffing.