- News Center
- Legislative Highlights
- Senate Bill 283
Education workforce bill debuts
The Senate Education Committee heard the first big education workforce bill Tuesday, Feb. 14. The bill is ambitious, with many parts.
Labor organization representatives testified in support of many of the provisions. School district and administrator testimony expressed support for many investments but concerns about potential costs.
Procedurally, Senate Bill 283 is now the -3 amendments, which replaced the entirety of the measure. In legislative shorthand, this is called a “gut and stuff,” because the contents of the introduced bill were replaced entirely by the new amendment. For the purposes of the hearing, and for this article, referring to “the bill” is referring to the -3 amendments.
Committee Chair Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, provided a bill overview. He shared the background leading up to the bill, including a stakeholder work group process and the challenges it uncovered, such as difficulties retaining experienced educators and recruiting new ones. The resulting bill’s major provisions are:
- Creation of a statewide workforce data system:
- A workforce data system portal;
- An interactive data visualization tool;
- A required annual report to the Legislature.
- School educators and employees supports
- 20% increased pay differential for special education teachers and classified staff;
- Five hours per day minimum for classified employees;
- “Just cause” termination protections for classified employees;
- Substitute teachers must be employees of a district and must be paid for required training;
- Statutory permission for educator “work back” to enable teachers to work full time after retirement and still be eligible for Public Employees Retirement System benefits;
- Streamlined process for retired teachers to receive a substitute teaching license automatically within three years.
- Salary studies
- Creation of a study on minimum salaries for substitute teachers;
- Creation of a legislative task force on statewide educator salary schedules.
- Apprenticeship and mentorship grants
- “Grow your own” registered apprenticeships/mentorship grants.
- Legislative advocacy for education careers
- Funding for public relations campaign to promote interest in education professions.
After years of dedicated advocacy by school board members and other education stakeholders, legislators are clearly responding to the workforce crisis in Oregon schools. This bill takes bold steps toward making Oregon schools a much better place to work.
Some of these steps are potentially problematic for school districts, however. The bill’s provisions that would boost special education staff pay by 20% are in response to the challenges districts have faced to meet the special education needs of students in recent times. But there is no clear portion of the bill that delivers the necessary funding to pay for these salary increases. Indeed, the bill requires these pay boosts to come into effect the next time districts bargain contracts.
Similarly, the provisions for substitute teacher employment would be costly for school districts. Although the need for substitute teachers has been widely reported, giving substitute employees new rights without funding may compound cost pressures on districts, creating a new problem.
Perhaps most concerning for schools is adding classified employee job protections with a “just cause” standard for termination. This was among the most popular topics of hearing testimony. The actual standard is a multi-part test for termination, which includes notice, investigation and proportional discipline requirements. Currently, districts may bargain for a just cause standard. Requiring just cause shifts rights away from local control and will likely increase costs in many districts.
OSBA Legislative Services Director Lori Sattenspiel told the committee that “no matter what, you must account for the costs.” School districts cannot absorb any more unfunded mandates, no matter how well intentioned the goals.
If passed, this bill would represent the single largest investment in the education workforce in at least a generation. The hearing was a major milestone for the bill, but the drafting is not done. At the close of the hearing, Dembrow expressed a desire to have the bill be as perfect as possible before leaving the Senate Education Committee. To that end, he indicated that more amendments would follow.
- Richard Donovan
Legislative Services specialist