Legislative Report - Week of 4/24
By Anne Nesse
Governor Kotek’s SB 1045-2 sets a significant legal precedent for education in our state. The -2 amendment names certain “vulnerabilities of students” in education, for which all school districts need to comply with state law. This principle of equity in education has long been supported by the League of Women Voters.
All last week House Education held an important informational hearing on the large Omnibus Workforce Training Education Bill, SB 283 A. Sen. Dembrow introduced and explained the 31 Sections, in a simplified version below.
This Bill was the result of a number of workgroups that gathered online to address the crisis of recruitment, retention, working conditions, and compensation for all groups of teaching and staff in our public education system. The League participated in one of the groups, as did many of the professionals involved in the educational process. Sen. Dembrow reminded us that this problem was happening before the Pandemic and is happening nationally. He listed just a few of the major issues such as the high new teacher dropout rate, the difficulty of the jobs teachers do (considering more money is offered in other professions), increasing costs of living, the lack of diversity in employment, and a high degree of rural area staffing issues. Sen. Dembrow stressed that we are working on short and long term strategies with these problems.
The following is a summary of the Bill in Sections:
Section 1 calls for the need for increased workforce data, not just anecdotal. TSPC and UO will be working on this.
Section 2 directly addresses the knowledge of why teachers leave the profession, with better exit surveys and an annual report.
Section 3 calls for up to a 20% pay increase differential for teachers and classified employees working in Special Education 75% of the time. This measure was polled and classroom teachers supported this, but we don’t yet know the full cost.
Sections 4-5 clarify rules so classified staff will always be compensated above minimum wage. This is currently not occurring, due to limiting staff hours in Special Education classes.
Sections 6-8 grant that Special Education staff will be given the protection of no firing without a just cause. It addresses the fact that this is a physically demanding job.
Sections 9-13 address the problem of inadequate substitute teacher positions, by respecting them as school district employees, giving them some access to training and PERS in 2023-24.
Sections 14-15 address the fact that minimum salary levels are different in different districts, and the need for applying some kind of standard so that we maintain excellence throughout the educational system, as Washington State has done.
Sections 16-17 study teaching as an apprenticeship model, with recommendations to be finished by 9/15/2024, as well as paying student teachers for their work.
Sections 18-19 bring together a task force to study statewide salary guidelines in preference to local control. This also includes an educated task force for calculating our biennial educational budget (CSL) and collecting data on extra individual school district spending above that level.
Section 20 includes “grow your own” programs study (a type of apprenticeship), that includes mentorship grants that help local candidates become teachers who have roots in communities, using student for success act dollars.
Sections 21-22 create investment in public relations campaigns to promote interest in education careers, ideally matched by local funds and philanthropy.
Sections 23-25 smooth the process of licensure after retiring, for teachers and classified staff to become substitute or part-time teachers.
Sections 26-29 allow teachers to work full time and still receive PERS at retirement. This also protects ESD Superintendents from firing without just cause, as last year's SB 1521 did for elected School District Superintendents.
Sections 30-31 remove excess background checks for differing educational jobs that are actually similar.
Section 32 is the Emergency Clause to enact this legislation.