Bill that would force negotiations over class size moves to House floor
Thursday, February 15, 2018
After abbreviated testimony last week and a short-but-heated debate Wednesday, the House Business and Labor Committee moved a bill on class-size negotiations to the House floor.
House Bill 4113 would make class size a “mandatory” subject in collective bargaining, meaning teachers could strike if they couldn’t come to agreement with districts on class sizes. Currently, class size is a “permissive” subject, meaning both sides can discuss it, but it does not have to be negotiated.
Opponents of the bill worry it will drive up salary costs without meaningfully reducing class sizes or helping students. Districts could be forced to cut staff, programs or school days to afford hiring more teachers or paying current teachers bonuses for oversized classes, opponents say.
“The economic fallout from this will be extraordinary,” said Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove), the committee’s vice chair, during debate.
OSBA, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and Oregon Business & Industry oppose HB 4113. OSBA has created a resource page with information on the bill and how to contact legislators.
Passing the bill is a priority for the Oregon Education Association, the teachers union.
Rep. Julie Fahey (D-Eugene) said she supported the bill because she thinks labor unions should have the right to bargain over working conditions.
“I’m under no illusions this actually fixes class sizes in Oregon,” she added. To meaningfully reduce class sizes would require additional funding, she said. The bill does not include funding for hiring teachers or expanding school facilities to accommodate additional classrooms.
Fahey is on the Joint Committee on Student Success, and she said that class size and funding would be issues the committee should explore as part of its yearlong effort to create a plan to improve Oregon’s education system.
Both sides agreed that to get smaller class sizes, Oregon needs to fix its funding problems for K-12 public education.
The committee voted 7-4 Wednesday night, with Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City) reluctantly joining the Democrats. Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) voted to send the bill to the House floor for a vote, but she said she could not guarantee she would vote yes on it there.
HB 4113 has not been scheduled for a floor vote. The bill has until Thursday, Feb. 22, to clear the House and be assigned to a work session in a Senate committee.