Revenue reform dominates discussions at OSBA Fall Regional Meetings
Monday, November 6, 2017
Lori Sattenspiel speaks at the Oct. 27 Fall Regional meeting.
Education funding was high on the list of issues OSBA members wanted to talk about at the 2017 Fall Regional Meetings.
More than 90 percent of 226 survey responses from the meetings said OSBA should continue to pursue revenue reform, cost containment and accountability in the Legislature.
“The frustration level continues to grow among our members that the Legislature won’t fix the funding issues,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green. “They have a right to expect their leaders to do what they asked them to do.”
OSBA staff traveled close to 5,000 miles over six weeks to listen to members’ concerns in person.
It’s important to meet the association’s members in their communities and show them someone in Salem is paying attention to their region’s issues, Green said.
Nearly 700 people attended 21 meetings scattered over the state. Members from area districts talked with each other and OSBA about their successes and challenges. For OSBA, feedback from members was essential.
“This is about us listening to them,” said Interim Director of Legislative Services Lori Sattenspiel.
Although the need for revenue reform was a common theme, there was no consensus around what it should look like.
In general, attendees in the Willamette Valley area said they were willing to pay more in taxes for public education, while members from the rest of the state talked more about cost containment and spending the money smarter.
“We heard loud and clear from our membership that costs are out of control in the places where districts do not control costs, such as PERS and health care,” said Richard Donovan, OSBA legislative specialist.
Attendees repeatedly said they would like more outreach by OSBA to explain education work to their communities. School board members said they don’t think their communities always understand what the schools are doing or why.
“They said, ‘We need help,’” Sattenspiel said.
There was also a lot of discussion about what accountability looks like.
“They generally said they wanted to be held accountable for things that matter and that they can control,” Donovan said.
OSBA members said they wanted to be judged by things they chose that they found valuable – such as third-grade reading or attendance – and not standardized tests such as Smarter Balanced that can be skewed by a few students not showing up.
Facilities were another concern, especially related to the increased physical education mandate to be phased in beginning in 2019. Smaller districts in particular will have a hard time adding gyms or play structures to meet the mandate without additional funds.
OSBA showed its newest video for The Promise of Oregon campaign to celebrate graduation at high schools around the state. The public awareness campaign for 2017-18 is focusing on improving graduation rates. Response was overwhelmingly positive. School board members are proud of the work their schools do, and they said they would like to see this type of positive message on television and distributed to local media.
OSBA staff also informed members about a resolution to reorganize OSBA as a nonprofit. Formed as a volunteer member services organization, OSBA wants to incorporate as a nonprofit under ORS Chapter 65 to protect its tax-exempt status. Most members will not see any changes in OSBA’s services, but charter schools will no longer be able to join as associate members because of tax rules. Charter schools will have the opportunity to obtain OSBA services through their authorizing districts.
OSBA members will be able to vote on the resolution from Nov. 13 to Dec. 15 as part of the annual elections process. If approved, the change would take effect July 1, 2018.