Policy committees shut down, but money matters still percolating
Monday, June 7, 2021
The May 28 deadline for bills to move out of policy committees marked the end of session work for most of them. Education committees are holding informational hearings with invited testimony, but their bill work is done.
The committees that continue to meet are largely concerned with money. Most notably, the Joint Ways and Means Committee is working on agency budgets for the 2021-23 biennium, which begins July 1.
The public schools budget, the biggest state funding budget, passed Thursday. The Legislature allotted $9.3 billion to the State School Fund, but some legislators pressed for increasing the fund to $9.6 billion, the minimum school officials say is necessary for most school districts to avoid cuts. OSBA and other education advocates are still working to get additional money in an end-of-session bill.
Budget bills tend to get the most attention, but many other bills are awaiting a vote on a chamber floor. For schools there are some notable bills:
House Bill 2330: Many of the smallest and most remote Oregon schools receive an adjustment in the State School Fund to compensate for their additional costs. For political reasons, these adjustments exist in statute with a sunset and must be re-passed into law every few years. HB 2330 would make extra weights in the formula permanent. This has been a long-standing OSBA legislative goal.
Senate Bill 743: The COVID-19 pandemic led to booming enrollment for some of Oregon’s virtual charter schools. Through a statute quirk, it is possible that if many students leave online charters to return to local public schools this fall, those students could be double-counted for funding purposes. This would move millions of dollars to some online charter schools for students who do not attend those schools. SB 743 would limit the money transferred to online public charter schools to 10% of this amount. The bill has no opposition, and some charter schools have supported the bill, saying they do not want to harm sponsoring districts by counting children who are not enrolled.
These bills address niche issues in the broader budget process, but they are crucial for the affected districts. Codifying these changes would represent deliberate, positive steps to improve public education funding.
Constitutionally, the Legislature must adjourn no later than Sunday, June 27. With about three weeks of discussion, debate and struggle left this year, OSBA’s primary focus will be on increasing education funding. But OSBA remains committed to also nudging along legislative items big and small that benefit public school districts and their students.