Good bills can sometimes be better, but those discussions can also threaten to derail the entire legislation.
OSBA supports teacher workforce diversity. If schools are forced to lay off teachers, House Bill 2001 would allow administrators to retain a teacher with less seniority if the teacher has more “merit” and retention of the teacher is necessary to maintain the school district's diversity ratio.
This bill holds extra impact right now. Schools are actively trying to address the equity questions raised by the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. But if the Legislature holds to its proposed $9.1 billion State School Fund, many districts will have to lay off teachers. Teachers of color tend to be lower on the seniority ladder.
This is the wrong move for students of color.
Research suggests that students of color who have at least one teacher of color may do better on tests and be less likely to have disciplinary issues. Research also suggests that White students show improved problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity when they have diverse teachers.
“We need to do better to recruit, retain and support our new teachers,” said House Education Committee member Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro. “Twenty-five percent of all the teachers that leave in the first three years are BIPOC educators.”
Last week, the House Education Committee considered an amendment that would add 'cultural and linguistic expertise' as a criteria, allowing administrators to be more thoughtful about the layoff process and the students impacted.
“’Cultural or linguistic expertise,’ would be huge for us,” said Mike Meunier, Central Point School District assistant superintendent. “We have a dual-language immersion program in our district that demands a totally bi-lingual teacher who can deliver instruction in content areas in both English and Spanish.”
Tuesday, April 13, was the last day to move the bill forward from the Education Committee, but legislators couldn’t come to a decision on proposed amendments. In a procedural move to keep the bill alive, the committee moved HB 2001 to the House Rules Committee, which doesn’t face the same deadlines.
There is no guarantee the bill will move out of Rules, but House Speaker Tina Kotek is HB 2001’s chief sponsor.
“While we have much more work to do to meet our goals of a representational K-12 workforce, we also need to protect the gains we have made,” Kotek said in written testimony. “This bill is one solution, in concert with other efforts, to fulfill our commitment to racial equity.”
Fellow education advocates are helping make the case for an amended bill known as HB 2001-5.
“HB 2001-5 ensures we are protecting the teachers who have the breadth and depth of cultural and linguistic expertise that helps our kids thrive,” said Toya Fick, Stand for Children Oregon executive director. “We hope the House will continue their commitment to diversity by prioritizing this critical legislation without any further delays.”
Students, especially students of color, win when schools can make decisions based on local conditions on what best serves the children’s needs.