Deadline helps focus legislative attention of education advocates
An April 7 deadline in the Legislature was the first small step to sharpening the scope of the 2017 legislative session. Bills not scheduled for a work session or safely in a Ways and Means, revenue or rules committee are now considered “dead.”
Work sessions mean some of these bills will start coming up for significant votes. It is a chance for education advocates to narrow their work, and OSBA asked several organizations to point out bills they see as priorities.
Oregon Department of Education Communications Director Tricia Yates offered three bills ODE is watching closely. The three bills have been referred to the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
- Senate Bill 13 would direct ODE to develop curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon and train educators to teach the course. It would “create a Native American curriculum for grades K-12 that will ensure students learn about the first Oregonians in the history of our state,” Yates said in an email.
- Senate Bill 182-A would establish the Educator Advancement Council. It would “ensure that quality professional development for teachers is available all over the state and provide scholarships for culturally or linguistically diverse teacher candidates,” Yates said.
- Senate Bill 183 would create an early identification and intervention system to keep students on the pathway to graduation.
Government Relations Consultant Laurie Wimmer said a primary focus of the Oregon Education Association is legislation that helps students in poverty. She also identified three bills that were particularly important to the OEA.
- Senate Bill 353-1 would rewrite Measure 98 “to institute more flexibility, efficiency, local control and quality,” wrote Wimmer in an email. It is scheduled for a work session today (April 11).
- Senate Bill 746 would restore an elected superintendent of public instruction. The bill would also put more educator voices on the State Board of Education and, in Wimmer’s view, improve rulemaking input by the public. It is scheduled for a work session today (April 11).
- Senate Bill 5516 and 5517 would appropriate money for ODE’s budget, grant-in-aid budgets and the State School Fund.
Campaign and Field Director Dave Rosenfeld put Measure 98 at the center of Stand for Children’s focus. Measure 98 offers schools per-student funding for plans that address three areas: career and technical education, college preparation and dropout prevention. He offered three broad legislative agendas.
- Secure funding for Measure 98 and K-12 public education. “Voters were clear that lawmakers must prioritize education funding, turning around Oregon’s dismal graduation rate and boosting career and college readiness through Measure 98 while preserving our existing K-12 investments,” Rosenfeld said in an email. Budget numbers and the resulting bills are still being hammered out.
- Protect school districts’ flexibility to allocate Measure 98 funds by stopping Measure 98 carve-outs, bills that would direct specific spending of Measure 98 funds. He offered as an example House Bill 2658, which received a work session but no vote on Monday. HB 2658 aims to serve more student with school social workers, and an amendment would use money from the Measure 98 fund to pay for it.
- Stop what Stand for Children views as attacks on Measure 98. Rosenfeld pointed to the amended Senate Bill 353. SB 353 would establish Measure 98’s Task Force on the High School Graduation and College and Career Readiness Act. “The amendment turns nearly every element of Measure 98 on its head, removing the guarantee that funds be spent on career technical education, eliminating the requirement that funds be used to expand student access to the three strategies, deleting the early warning system requirement and striking the accountability language,” Rosenfeld said. “If SB353-1 passed, the 2-1 voter mandate would be effectively nullified and graduation rates would remain as is.” A work session is scheduled for April 11.
FACT Oregon, which advocates for families experiencing disabilities, considers equity in education crucial. Advocacy and Engagement Director Ava Bartley offered several bills to watch.
- Senate Bill 263 would limit school districts’ ability to require students to participate in abbreviated school day programs. School days shortened because of behavior problems or other issues are a widespread concern for the education of students with disabilities, Bartley said in an email. The bill is scheduled for a work session April 12.
- House Bill 3318 would establish procedures for conducting functional behavioral analysis and for creating behavior intervention plans for students with individualized education programs or 504 Plans. FACT Oregon supports an amendment to the bill that would ensure that the process for developing supports for students experiencing behavioral challenges is data-driven, involves professionals who are qualified in behavior supports and involves staff and others in the development and implementation of the plan. The bill is scheduled for a work session April 17.
- House Bill 2957 would establish a grant program for improving kindergarten student-to-teacher ratios in schools that are considered high poverty. FACT Oregon supports lower student-to-teacher ratios because it allows teachers to better serve students with special needs in a general education setting. “We believe inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom benefits all children and creates inclusive school communities that value diversity and have high expectations for all students,” Bartley said. The bill is scheduled for a work session April 18.
- House Bill 2223 would direct ODE to develop statewide school nursing services. FACT Oregon supports the bill because of a concern that the shortage of nursing support in schools affects the ability of school districts to provide a free and appropriate education to students who experience significant health challenges. The bill has been referred to the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
OSBA is monitoring roughly 400 education-related bills left after the Friday deadline, said Legislative Services Interim Director Lori Sattenspiel. Two of OSBA’s chief concerns are cost containment for schools and revenue for the state, she said. Because bills in revenue committees don’t fall under the work session deadline, it remains to be seen what bills might come of this session, particularly related to health care costs and the Public Employees Retirement System.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA
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