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Legislative Report - Week of 3/6

By Anne Nesse, Education Portfolio

Testimony on Bipartisan HB 3235, in House Early Childhood and Human Services 2/27, attempts to create refundable child tax credit in Oregon of up to $1,200.00 per child under age 18, based on family income.

Watch the House Early Childhood hearing, for HB 3235, called the “Oregon Kids Tax Credit”, particularly at the beginning, Rep. Valderrama, Rep. Greg Smith, Sen. Campos, and Rep. Grayber, gave moving testimony on why giving a tax credit to low income families in Oregon was the ethical way to govern and prevent the many long term effects of childhood poverty, for as many children as we could. View a copy of our LWV testimony here. Our verbal testimony was based on research, that living in poverty has a profound negative effect on children’s development, even as our teachers are working hard to educate them. And as many others had testified, simply giving these families even a small amount of extra money, helped the children develop more normally.

Also heard in this Committee on 2/27, a pilot study bill HB 2726 for Jackson and Josephine Counties, would coordinate national, state and local services, to combat childhood poverty, ages 0-5. Former Governor and MD John Kitzhaber spoke in support. It was stated by Rep. Marsh that this study could be a model for the whole state on completion, to avoid the effects of generational poverty.

On 2/27 House Education held an informational meeting on how school districts calculate their budgets and submit their requests for monies to the State School Fund. The recording is here of Mike Wiltfong, Director of School Finance. The documents in his slide show are difficult to read, without a finance background, but they did make many things clearer. In the past, school funding was calculated with 1/3 of the funds coming from the state, and 2/3 of the funds coming from local sources. Today, because of Measures 5, 47, and 50, our state’s costs have increased, requiring the State School Fund to adjust its funding, and attempt to create a degree of equity throughout our state.

HB 2710 was also introduced by Rep. Valderrama, and Sen. McLain in House Education, 2/27. The hope is that this Bill will give the public more transparency on exactly what our public education money is being spent on. OEA is neutral on the Bill, based on the possible financial impact, as written. Amendments, or a technical work group, may be necessary according to some testimony.

Senate Education 2/28, finished up technical fixes on several bills SB 819A  (applying only now to students with recognized disabilities), SB 767-4, SB 281, SB 292A , and SB 129  and the -2 amendment, which will end the auction program for opportunity grants. All were sent to the Floor with Do Pass Recommendations. Sen. Wagner presented SB 3-1. The Bill has a graduation requirement for one credit of future planning, and financial knowledge. The Bill has some bi-partisan support. Sen. Thatcher, stated in written testimony that students need instruction in savings and intelligent spending habits. It is interesting to me that many students will need a certain amount of maturity to understand these concepts.

3/1 in House Education, HB 3177  was introduced, a $20 Million expenditure bill for recruiting and retaining teachers, as well as mentoring projects. The “grow your own educator” project was discussed, allowing teachers’ aides or other staff, who were naturally talented at education, to apply for scholarships in training to become a licensed teacher. Reed Scott-Schwalbach,  OEA Pres., also spoke on HB 3178-1, expanding scholarships for aspiring counselors and other staff to increase racial diversity in the educational workforce. Rep. McIntire asked a pertinent question about how these scholarships would work for those living in poverty or in rural areas.

On 3/1 in the Early Childhood Committee, HB 2872, the Imagination Library Project was presented, with much positive testimony about the reading readiness this fostered, to have 60 books sent to homes with children, from ages 0-5. This is a $2.5 Million investment, and both Washington State and California aim to fully fund their programs by 2024, 1/2 funded by the Dolly Parton Foundation.

Here is a copy of our testimony by Marge Easley.

A public hearing on HB 2717-1 was also heard in Early Childhood that day, on establishing all day outdoor preschool programs, to increase the availability of care centers for the preschool age group. Washington State reports better school readiness and safety ratings than the average preschool. The pictures of the kids in colorful rain suits and the reports of the children’s imagination, storytelling, and living outdoors with nature, made you want to be with them all day, to discover what they were learning!

On 3/2 in Senate Education, SB 523 was introduced by Rep. Patterson to allow community colleges throughout the state to begin a plan to offer Bachelor of Science Degrees in Nursing Programs, to assist with the current shortages of skilled nurses in our state. Currently about 55% of our working nurses are 55 and older, and we have the 3rd fewest graduate nurses per capita nationally. Rep. Patterson stated that we have more students who are qualified to enter nursing careers, than we currently have places to educate them. The testimony in opposition was written by current university programs, while many community colleges and hospitals support this plan.

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