The Joint Ways and Means Education Subcommittee held its first hearing Wednesday on Gov. Kate Brown’s two main education policy initiatives remaining this legislative session: Senate Bills 182 and 183. The education subcommittee is primarily responsible for allocating all education budget funds.
The two bills represent distinct yet complementary approaches to improving Oregon’s graduation rate. Senate Bill 182 would change the existing Network for Quality Teaching and Learning to a new Council on Educator Advancement. Currently, the NQTL receives approximately $37 million per biennium. Those funds support teacher professional development, with an emphasis on new teacher training and mentoring. The council would do much of the same work.
SB 183 would appropriate $20 million from the State School Fund to create a graduation early indicator and intervention system statewide. That would be a new “carve out” from the State School Fund.
Chief Education Officer Lindsey Capps described the goal of the two measures as supporting “students and their families.” He specifically mentioned the critical importance of “working alongside school districts and educators” to establish systems “to keep students on track in their learning.” Capps did not shy away from the cost of the measures.
“Yes, both of these proposals draw modest allocations from the State School Fund,” Capps testified. “These proposals recognize and are focused squarely on targeting resources and leveraging resources … to achieve graduation outcomes for our students most in need of support, our students of color and our students in poverty.”
The presentations to the subcommittee focused mostly on the content of SB 183. Presenters included Education Innovation Officer Colt Gill and Northwest Regional ESD Superintendent Rob Saxton. They stressed the value of the early indicator and intervention system, specifically to small school districts, which Gill defined as the approximately 150 school districts statewide that would not be able to create this kind of system alone.
Some legislators were skeptical of the costs. Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland), co-chair of the subcommittee, expressed concern with staffing levels.
“In reading through this proposal … there are nine new staff positions, eight of which are permanent,” she said. “That is something we’re going to dig into.”
Smith Warner said her concern was that “resources, as limited as they are, get out as broadly as possible.”
The meeting ran long, and the subcommittee did not have time to undertake a full discussion on SB 182. The meeting ended with the subcommittee promising to schedule time soon to continue the presentation. OSBA will monitor the bills.