Bill would force school districts to bargain with teachers over class sizes
Monday, January 22, 2018
A bill made public Monday would make class size a mandatory part of collective bargaining, forcing schools to negotiate with the teachers union over maximum class sizes.
The bill does not provide funding to pay for additional teachers or classrooms. OSBA is opposing House Bill 4113 because it undermines local control and would potentially cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
For example, the Oregon Department of Education estimates that the state would have to spend an additional $575.6 million next biennium to hire approximately 2,600 teachers to lower class sizes by three students.
“If you make class size a subject of collective bargaining, it will be a budget buster for school districts,” said Jim Green, OSBA executive director.
In addition to the cost, some districts would face hurdles in finding qualified teachers and facility space for more classrooms, Green said. Districts would be forced to cut other programs, such as music or drama, or nonteaching staff to accommodate hiring more teachers.
“This would come at the expense of a well-rounded education,” Green said.
Under state and federal law, subjects of bargaining fall into three categories: mandatory, permissive or prohibited. Mandatory subjects must be resolved during bargaining, or they can trigger economic actions such as strikes or lockouts.
A 1995 revision to the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act specifically excluded class size from the “employment relations” category, making it a permissive subject. Class sizes can be part of contract discussions, but school districts do not have to talk about it. Under current law they cannot be forced into mediation to discuss class size.
Green said HB 4113 would force even districts where class sizes aren’t a problem to negotiate with teachers over class sizes.
The bill is being backed by the Oregon Education Association, which also supported a nearly identical 2017 bill. That bill failed in the House Education Committee.
Student-teacher ratios have been falling at all levels of Oregon education since the 2012-13 school year, according to ODE’s 2017 annual report to the Legislature. Oregon public schools have added more than 3,000 teachers since 2012-13.