Chalk up some wins for schools with bills that went nowhere
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
The 79th legislative session is in the books. In a session that started with a $1.8 billion budget deficit, K-12 public education ended up with an $8.2 billion State School Fund, less than schools asked for but more than legislators initially offered. When legislators don't have money for budgets, they tend to dabble in policy. The fiddling usually leads to policy bills that cost the schools extra resources to implement. This session, however, there was a conscious effort to be mindful about passing legislation that put a burden on schools.
“Wins” during session are not always about getting bills passed, but also include the bills that are stopped.
Here are a few bills that schools are better off without:
House Bill 2651 would have made class size a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Class size is currently a permissive subject and consistently comes up during bargaining. Class size is an important issue, but this bill could have required additional resources and schools need the flexibility to spend resources where they think they will do the most good. The bill was narrowly defeated in committee.
HB 3087 would have set up a process for employees to access paid family leave for 12 weeks with an additional six weeks of parental leave. This bill included a funding component of a 0.5 percent payroll tax on employers and employees, and it required a three-fifths majority to pass. The bill was moved to a work group for additional work on stakeholder concerns. The paid family leave benefit likely will be brought forward again in the short February 2018 session.
Senate Bill 217, called the concussion bill, had two public hearings and work behind the scenes to try to add chiropractors and naturopaths to the list of health professionals who could authorize a student to return to play after a concussion. This bill was not moved forward, but an interim group is working on how to add health care professionals who could authorize a student’s return to play.
SB 294 was the union-backed contracting-out-for-services bill. The idea has been brought forward in every session in recent years and would impact all local government agencies. To give it a better chance to pass, the bill was changed this year and targeted only school districts. The bill would have made it more difficult for schools to contract out busing and food service operations by requiring additional steps that could be challenged by the union along the way. The bill had two hearings and died without moving out of committee.
SB 297 would have created the CTE-STEM Investment Council, abolishing the current structure in the Oregon Department of Education. The bill would have revised the process for awarding grants to districts for science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs and career and technical education projects and would have broadened the authority of the new council.
SB 915 would have modified the minimum amount of funding that a school district must pass through to a charter school. The minimum amount is set in statute, but the school district and charter school can negotiate a higher level. This issue comes before the Legislature every session and includes passionate testimony on both sides.
This is just a short list of some of the more significant bills that did not move forward. The OSBA-COSA Legislative Report containing all education-related bills that passed should be available in late August.