House scheduled to vote on bill to make class size bargaining mandatory
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) carried over a vote on House Bill 4113, the class-size negotiations bill, until Tuesday, Feb. 20. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
After several fits and stops, House Bill 4113 is scheduled for a vote today, Feb. 20, in the Oregon House of Representatives.
The bill would make class size a “mandatory” subject in collective bargaining, meaning teachers could strike if they couldn’t come to agreement with districts on class sizes. Currently, class size is a “permissive” subject, meaning both sides can discuss it, but it does not have to be negotiated.
OSBA is strongly opposed to HB 4113 because it could drive up district costs without necessarily reducing class sizes or helping students.
The bill was scheduled for a vote on the House floor Monday but was held over by Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland). It is unclear exactly why.
The House Business and Labor Committee voted to endorse the measure Wednesday following a contentious debate. Some of the committee members, including Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard), Rep. Julie Fahey (D-West Eugene & Junction City) and committee chair Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) continued to be strong advocates for the bill.
“I believe that teachers should be able to bargain over workload conditions … like class size,” Fahey said.
Doherty said that the bill was about having a conversation and that she didn’t think it would cost districts money. Proponents of the bill have said teachers might accept pay cuts to reduce class sizes or accept larger class sizes and use that to bargain over other issues that affect students’ education.
Opponents of the bill rejected the notion the bill would not raise costs for districts. The bill would likely force districts to add teachers and classrooms or pay teachers more for classes that exceeded some size set in a contract.
Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove) expressed concern about the value of requiring discussion and investment in class size. He cited testimony previously delivered to the committee by Northwest ESD Superintendent Rob Saxton on research listing nearly 200 more cost-effective ways to improve education.
“I fear that we’re requiring something foolish,” Barreto said.
Some committee members were torn. Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) and Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Canby) endorsed the bill for the sake of having a vote on the House floor, but both said they had reservations.
If the House votes to endorse the measure, then it would move to the Senate for consideration. It would need to be assigned to a work hearing in a policy committee by Thursday or assigned to a committee not subject to the deadline to continue moving forward. OSBA, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, and the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts and others will continue to work to make sure the bill does not become law.