Legislative Day provides sweet opportunities for board members
Monday, May 6, 2013
I never knew chocolate could be so effective. State Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) was explaining to a group of us all the ins and outs of the state Legislature. Among other necessities, he said, was liberally passing out candy.
“Are you saying chocolate buys favors, Senator?” asked Jim Green, OSBA’s deputy executive director.
That was a light moment during an enlightening day at the Capitol. The occasion was OSBA/COSA Legislative Day, put on April 19 by the Oregon School Boards Association and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA).
After hearing about two hours of bill updates and advice from legislators and staff from both organizations, many board members and administrators met individually with senators and representatives.
Roblan, himself a former principal, said school board members are uniquely qualified for dealing with the compromise and problem-solving that take place in Salem.
“Your work on the school board, which goes unnoticed unless there's some mess, is really appreciated here,” Roblan said. “The skills you learn in education are really applicable here.”
He said caucuses on both sides of the aisle often look to school board members as possible legislative candidates “because you also have a passion for getting something done.”
He talked about the importance of listening, and the outlook for school funding and reform of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). With our own budgeting and teacher negotiations in motion, I asked him when we could get a clear idea of the budget numbers for K-12 education.
He said he expected that to happen in the next few weeks. As if that weren’t sweet enough, when he was done speaking he walked around handing out chocolates.
We also heard from COSA lobbyist Chuck Bennett, who reminded us that legislators need to hear that their votes are necessary to securing at least $6.55 billion for K-12 schools in the next biennium.
“Transmit the message – it’s about those kids,” he said. “You know those stories way better than we do. It is so important that they understand that message.”
OSBA’s legislative team – Deputy Executive Director Jim Green and legislative specialists Morgan Allen and Lori Sattenspiel – outlined some of the pressing issues in this session, starting with PERS reform.
Green outlined Senate Bill 822, and its reliance on delaying payments, which cuts down on immediate rates but adds $60 million in interest that school districts and other entities have to pay back down the road.
“We've told legislators, and you can tell them, skipping payments to a pension system is not good business – it just doesn't make sense,” Green said.
Other issues outlined by OSBA staff included funding for education service districts, school board representation on the Oregon Education Investment Board, public contracting requirements and concealed weapons in schools.
Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) also spoke to the group. Johnson and others noted how much OSBA has raised its profile over the past year.
“You've heard some kudos to OSBA for their new relevance in the building,” Johnson said.
Later, he said, “OSBA being out front in the PERS discussion has really raised their status as a serious player.”