Class-size bill returns but remains wrong approach to solving issue
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on class size as a mandatory bargaining issue on Monday, Feb. 18, which happens to be teacher rally day at the Capitol. Around 3,000 people are expected to come to the Salem rally and march around the Capitol building in support of school funding.
I will be testifying in opposition to the class-size bill, Senate Bill 764. I know we need to address class sizes, but this bill would not guarantee smaller classes while also being expensive for districts and potentially leading to teacher strikes that are disruptive for our students and communities. We would like to see class-size issues handled by districts based on their local needs.
Remember, districts can and already do talk about class sizes during the bargaining process. Some districts would like to see smaller class sizes as well, but they are constrained by their facilities and budgets.
The Joint Committee on Student Success has indicated a willingness to address class size, particularly at the earlier grade levels. They have looked at including it in a range of option for districts for helping students.
The Joint Committee on Student Success subcommittees meet at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays, which makes for a long day for legislators. The Accountability and Transparency subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, focused on the current school accountability measurers in place, under the Division 22 standards.
North Santiam School District Superintendent Andy Gardner and Gladstone School District Superintendent Bob Stewart spoke about the current structure of accountability and were asked by the committee what they would like to see changed. Both responded that what is in place might need adjustment but do not add more. Under the current structure, superintendents must sign off and report to the Oregon Department of Education that their school district follows the many Division 22 standards.
This set the stage for Tigard-Tualatin School Board member Maureen Wolf and Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith to talk about how Tigard-Tualatin is implementing accountability in their district. The committee was impressed with the presentation.
Rieke-Smith talked about the systems they use, including Forecast5 Analytics, and how those measures are tied to the superintendent evaluation. She went on to talk about how they maintain transparency with the community, which is an aspect of accountability. Legislators’ reactions were positive.
The presentation left me feeling that the subcommittee now has some traction and a path forward. I was asked to get Forecast5 back in front of this committee so they can take a “deeper dive” into what the system can do with data as it relates to accountability. That hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 5 or March 7.
On a more solemn note, the Senate Workforce Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 726, called the Workplace Fairness Act. This bill covers all public and private employers and deals with sexual harassment in the workplace. We want all our staff and students to be safe from harassment in the workplace, and there are policies and procedures already in place for school districts.
SB 726, however, concerns me, especially its provisions extending the statute of limitations from one to seven years. An employee who left a district would be able to file a sexual harassment claim up to seven years after leaving an employer. This kind of lag time can create problems for investigating an incident like this.
Testimony on the bill included OSBA Litigation Services Director Haley Percell, who discussed similar work being done on SB 155, which would deal specifically with schools, the staff and students. This bill has a goal of strengthening protections for our students in schools.
Percell highlighted the concerns related to the overlap of policy and implementing two similar yet separate laws. She noted that we want to always encourage staff and students to report so the school can investigate and respond more quickly to these situations.
Phase one of the revenue reform campaign is rolling along, and lobby days have begun. Our lobby days are different this session. We decided to have multiple days utilizing smaller groups coming to Salem and talking with legislators about school funding so that we could keep the issue before them and drive home the point that students deserve better funded schools. We have lobby days for different regions, but you can RSVP for any that are convenient.
Thanks for those who came to Salem and made their voices heard Tuesday, Feb. 12. The second lobby day will be Tuesday, Feb. 19, and will include students from Klamath Falls. They will come to Salem early and testify on a bill Monday, Feb. 18, in the House Education Committee.
A big shout out to all who have come to Salem – school board members, students and parents – we thank you for stepping up and getting involved. Keep up the good work. Remember to check out the campaign and sign up to receive updates and action items. You can also text “SCHOOLS” to 40649 to find out how to support schools.
If you make it to Salem, the governor’s annual food drive is going on this month in the Capitol, adding a bit of flavor and fun to the building. Legislators and staff are raising money through activities such as selling baked goods, singing and shining shoes.
- Lori Sattenspiel
Legislative Services director