Legislature’s interim hearings include education funding, audit subjects
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Legislators returned to Salem this week for legislative interim days. Committees hold meetings for a few hours every few months, receive information from experts on topics, and check on the results of enacted laws with an eye toward future sessions. A few committee meetings are of interest to education stakeholders.
The Senate Interim Education Committee spent most of the Monday, Sept. 16, morning meeting considering higher education credit transferability, a chronic policy challenge for K-12 and higher education stakeholders. Presenters expressed frustration and recounted experiences where credits did not transfer.
Lack of specific policies to enable transfers, such as common course numbering, put Oregon at odds with nationally recognized best practices. Expert testimony by Jason Taylor, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, indicated that costs to students when credits fail to transfer can toll into the tens of thousands of dollars, with significantly lower completion rates for those students.
The Joint Committee on Legislative Audits met Monday morning as well. Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial and Audits Director Kip Memmott presented an ambitious audits plan. The hearing began with the presenters lamenting the modern trend toward increased politicization and “weaponization” of audits. Next the presenters detailed an audit plan that would review a number of recent executive agency and legislative branch policies. The plan includes the Ballot Measure 98 funds and processes at the Oregon Department of Education.
Vial indicated that the office is considering creating something he characterized as an audits “hit squad” to handle difficult situations. Memmott jumped in to characterize this squad as a nonviolent, “helpful, agile group” that would seek to serve the needs of agencies that had trouble.
The discussion also touched on a likely audit of Student Success Act funds and processes next year. The audit was not part of the plan, but committee members and the auditors were enthusiastic about a “real-time audit” of the act.