The Challenges Ahead: Sick-time, minimum-wage, PE laws place burden on schools
Third in a series on looming costs and solutions, focusing this month on sick-time, minimum wage and PE laws.
Three laws passed by state legislators are crimping school budgets this fall and beyond.
Two of the laws – on sick time and minimum wage – are already affecting school budget plans for 2016-17. The third one, mandating minimum hours of physical education (PE) instruction, could require significant hiring, staff reassignment or restructuring of teaching days to meet requirements on PE instructional time.
Here are the laws in a nutshell:
- Sick time: Senate Bill 454 passed in 2015, and took effect in January 2016. It requires that employees accrue at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. It further defines sick time to include care of an employee or family member’s “mental or physical illness, injury or health condition,” the treatment or diagnosis of such an illness, and preventative medical care.
- Minimum wage: SB 1532 passed this year, and takes effect July 1. It raises the hourly minimum wage by fixed amounts annually through 2023, but the rate varies depending on where the employer is located. Lowest rates are in rural Oregon, and the highest hourly rates are in the Portland metropolitan area.
- PE instruction: House Bill 3141 passed in 2007, but does not take effect until the 2017-18 school year. It requires that all public school students in grades kindergarten through 8 participate in PE for the entire school year. Weekly participation is set at a minimum of 150 minutes in grades K-5 and 225 minutes in grades 6-8.
The sick-time law has created a number of issues for districts as far as tracking hours worked for employees who previously were not eligible for sick time, such as substitutes, crossing guards, community-member coaches and student workers.
The state Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) is reopening rulemaking on the law in June to address certain issues, including substitute teachers. OSBA has previously provided written comments on the rulemaking.
Just as with the sick-time law, the new minimum wage requirements can create a tracking burden for districts, particularly when workers report to various sites that would be governed by different wages based on their location. BOLI has issued draft rules on the law and is accepting public comments.
The state Legislative Fiscal Office has estimated that the minimum wage bill will increase school costs statewide by about $700,000 in this biennium and between $2.6 million and $2.8 million in 2017-19.
Brad Earl, chief operations officer of the Medford School District, said it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how much individual districts will spend in both implementing the new wage at the entry level and considering raises for those whose salaries are compressed by the new minimum.
“We will be bargaining with our classified workers beginning in January and will attend to the wage compression issue through the bargaining process,” Earl said.
On the PE issue, Earl said Medford would be in compliance with the new law’s instructional minimum times if it were put into effect today, thanks in part to grant funding. But because of budget pressures, particularly from rate increases for the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), the district is considering cuts to PE and other services.
“We very much run the risk of not complying with the 2017 PE mandate, unless the Legislature can figure out a way to fund it separately,” Earl said.
Legislation passed in 2007 will require that students spend
Jim Green, OSBA’s deputy executive director, said the PE legislation’s effect was delayed 10 years in hopes of finding funds, but to no avail.
“We all want our students to be healthy and active, but if legislatorsare going to mandate minimal instructional hours in PE they need to pay for all the costs associated with it – the additional teachers, facilities and equipment,” he said.
Green said OSBA would work with the Legislature in 2017 to either fully fund the PE requirements or give schools flexibility in complying.
In February 2015, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) prepared a report on the status of student participation in PE, and the availability of exercise facilities. The 2007 PE law requires such reports every two years, and 2015 findings based on data from school districts statewide included:
- Kindergarteners averaged 40 minutes of PE instruction a week between 2010 and 2014. Grades 1 through 5 averaged 72 minutes weekly during the same period, and grades 6-8 averaged 148 minutes weekly.
- Based on the figures above, kindergartners would have to nearly quadruple, and grades 1-5 would have to more than double their PE participation to meet the law’s requirements. Grades 6-8 would need to increase participation times by about 50 percent.
- Statewide, only 102 schools in grades K-8 would meet the requirements of the new law if it were in effect today. That’s just under 10 percent of the 1,035 Oregon K-8 schools that provided data for 2013-14.
- In 2013-14, some 24,631 students in grades K-8 did not receive any PE instruction, or about 6.3 percent of all students reported.
- Eighty school districts reported needing 296 new facilities to meet the law’s requirements.
The ODE report concluded that “one of the roadblocks for school districts in reaching the minute requirements outlined in HB 3141 is the lack of physical education facilities.”