House passes class-size negotiations bill after passionate debate
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The House approved a class-size negotiations bill 33-25 on Tuesday after a debate that relied heavily on legislators’ experiences as teachers and school board members.
House Bill 4113 now moves to the Senate. OSBA, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and Oregon Business & Industry oppose the bill.
HB 4113 would make class size a “mandatory” subject in collective bargaining discussions. Representatives of the Oregon Education Association, the teachers union that is the bill’s primary supporter, would be able to demand negotiations over the issue, and teachers could strike if an agreement couldn’t be reached.
“This will force a conversation,” said Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem) during House debate. He is one of the bill’s chief sponsors.
The bill has no funding for more teachers, but supporters say the bill only requires a negotiation and the union could bargain for other outcomes rather than lower class sizes.
Opponents say this bill is the wrong way to handle class sizes because it would increase district salary-related costs without necessarily lowering class sizes or helping students. Districts, already short on funds, would likely have to cut other programs and staff to balance their budgets while paying more in salaries, opponents say.
“Simple math dictates that you would have to decide where to make cuts in other areas,” said Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley), who opposed the bill. Reardon is a retired teacher and former David Douglas School Board member. He said he sympathized with the need for smaller classes but school boards had to deal with already stressed budgets.
“A good school board member puts students first,” he said.