Natalie Pate Salem Statesman Journal
Published 9:00 AM EST Jan 28, 2019
Oregon has one of the shortest school years and lowest graduation rates in the country. Schools are overcrowded. Teachers are clearing entire classes to protect students from disruptive behavior.
These and many other challenges have been on education advocates’ list of needs for decades.
And though the state has consistently underfunded Oregon’s education system, lawmakers are optimistic the 2019 legislative session will be different.
The Joint Committee on Student Success has outlined the most pressing issues facing Oregon schools. But they and other legislators have yet to figure out how to pay the estimated $3 billion price tag.
While more politically liberal lawmakers may be open to raising taxes to expand revenue streams, that solution is unlikely to fly with fiscal conservatives.
Additionally, discussions around mental health, teen suicide, gun control and school meals are among other education-related topics Oregonians can expect to see play out at the Legislature.
Joint committee’s work
Over the last year, the Joint Committee on Student Success, comprised of Oregon legislators, has traveled around the state getting feedback from families and educators on what they most want to change in Oregon schools.
They’ve since released a report outlining preliminary policy recommendations and cost estimates totaling about $3 billion.
A primary task of the committee is to address Oregon’s four-year graduation rate, which, at about 78 percent, is now the second lowest in the country.
From a lack of diverse staff and social-emotional learning opportunities, to unsafe buildings and scarce mental health services, the committee quickly found there are myriad factors influencing students’ success in- and outside the classroom.
And as long as these issues go unresolved, families will continue living without vital resources, educators will be stretched thinner and students will miss necessary skills, earn less money on average and require more social services.
Committee work: Oregon student success panel wants more school days, mental health services
This session they are tasked with narrowing down which priorities they want to focus on, how much it will truly cost, where that money will come from, how to implement the changes and how to hold leaders and districts accountable.
Longer school years, limited class sizes and more access to state subsidized preschool are just a few of many ideas lawmakers want to pursue.
Over the last two decades, the Legislature has consistently financed schools at about 21 to 38 percent below what its own research suggested districts needed to be successful.
Advocates pleaded for more money in the 2017-19 biennium budget, but Oregon lawmakers didn’t end up investing the $1.7 billion more outlined by the state’s Quality Education Model to allow services to continue and grow.
Gov. Kate Brown wants to change that for 2019-21, calling on lawmakers to fill the gap.
Brown has proposed a nearly $2 billion investment budget that could dramatically change Oregon’s education system.
Her focus is largely on more early childhood education for low-income families, a longer school year, money to get more teachers to reduce average class sizes and more mental health services/counselors.
Brown says the state in a unique position to make these investments as the joint committee completes its work.
“Oregon is at a turning point for our education system,” according to her investment proposal. “The current economy and work of the legislature’s Student Success Committee offers an historic opportunity to repair the damage done by more than 20 years of disinvestment in our children’s educational opportunities.”
Audit: Oregon Education Dept., Portland schools monitor spending poorly
Higher ed funding
While state lawmakers seem to be on the same page for K-12 funding priorities, Gov. Brown and legislative leaders said they seem to be on different pages concerning funding for colleges and universities.
Leaders of the Oregon Student Association vocalized opposition to Brown’s proposed budget, pushing for an additional $1 billion for the Public Universities Support Fund, $787 million for the Community College Support Fund and $252 million for the Oregon Opportunity Grant.
Administrators from colleges and universities are calling on the Legislature to find hundreds of millions more to maintain and expand current offerings, saying the Governor’s proposed budget is “extremely discouraging” and would negatively affect community colleges the most.
”The impact on Chemeketa students is going to be felt greatest by those least able to afford the tuition increases that will be necessary to maintain our programs and services,” Julie Huckestein, president of Chemeketa Community College, said in a previous interview.
“Especially troubling is the impact to over 900 Chemeketa students who will lose their free tuition funding with the loss of the Oregon Promise,” she said, pointing to the fact that Brown’s budget stops funding the program after 2019-20 unless her additional “investment budget” is approved.
“This, along with tuition increases, will impact affordability for Oregon families,” Huckestein said. “Community colleges are the access point for many individuals in our communities and our employers rely on us to prepare the current and future workforce.”
Statewide education: Students, educators oppose tuition hikes, push for more higher ed funding
Mental health, student wellness
Work from the Joint Committee on Student Success has highlighted the importance of mental health and student wellness initiatives at the Capitol this session.
Legislators recognized in their preliminary policy recommendations that “being ready and able to learn in the K-12 system starts long before (students) set foot in our schools.”
As a result, the group wants to support healthy family relationships with prenatal care, home visits, education and engagement for new parents and school readiness programs, among others initiatives.
Much of this aligns with K-12 funding investment proposals outlined in Brown’s budget.
Additionally, a handful of similar bills will be considered by legislative committees this session.
Senate Bill 52 would require school districts to adopt a policy on student suicide prevention.
House Bill 2192 would require all school districts and public charter schools conduct mental health wellness checks once each year for students in grade 6 through 12.
And a package of three legislative concepts have been proposed that would expand school food options in the form of universal school meals, an expansion of the state’s Community Eligibility Provisions and an expansion of the Breakfast After the Bell initiative.
Student safety, guns
After the Parkland school shooting last year, thousands of students, families and educators have advocated for more gun control and student safety policies.
Action at the Oregon Capitol this session may play a role in this.
SB 501, which was at the request of Students for Change, would require Oregonians to obtain a permit before buying a gun, limit the amount of ammunition a person could buy, outlaw magazines with a capacity of more than five rounds, require a criminal background check before the transfer of ammunition and create gun locking and storage requirements.
SB 87 would allow a gun dealer or person transferring a firearm, ammunition or firearm component at a gun show to establish the minimum age, as long as the minimum is at least 21 years.
Q&A: Florida shooting puts focus on safety plan developed by Salem-Keizer schools
In addition to gun-related bills, other student safety measures may be passed.
SB 18, for example, would allow the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission to discipline an administrator who fails to make a report, follow specified procedures or provide written notification related to suspected abuse of a child or sexual conduct by an educator.
This action comes after the debate last year around mandatory reporting requirements for students within three years of age who engage in consensual sexual activity.
To find bills, view the Legislature calendar or get more information, go to www.oregonlegislature.gov/ or call 1-800-332-2313.
Contact reporter Natalie Pate at [email protected], 503-399-6745 or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.
Support our journalism: Become a Statesman Journal subscriber today and get unlimited digital access to support local stories that matter.
Salem-Keizer: Here’s how the proposed boundary changes could affect your neighborhood, school
- Holocaust education bill signed in Washington state
- Oregon defends past nonunanimous jury verdicts to high court
- Winter Session Live: Rajya Sabha passes 'Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial' bill
- Winter Session LIVE: Pawar writes to PM Modi on the plight of the farmers
- The Pathfinder Network Launches Enhanced Visiting Pilot Program for Incarcerated Parents in Oregon
- Winter Session updates: Rajya Sabha passes Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment), Bill
- Winter Session updates: LS passes bill to raise chit fund amount by three times
- Winter Session LIVE: Parliament to discuss Pollution, WhatsApp snooping today
- Winter Session updates: Both houses adjourned till tomorrow
- Winter Session LIVE: Delhi air pollution likely to dominate Lok Sabha discussion
- Winter Session LIVE: Harsh Vardhan introduces bill to ban production, sale of e-cigarettes
- Winter Session LIVE: "We will take less time than Beijing in reducing air pollution," says Javadekar
- Winter Session LIVE: Govt is committed to protect fundamental rights of citizens, says RS Prasad
- Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Spring Semester 2013
- Winter Session LIVE: Jaya Bachchan demands Environmental Emergency declaration, punish the culprits
- Winter Session Of Parliament Begins: Citizenship Bill, Economic Slowdown On Legislative Agenda; 10 Points
- Winter Session Updates: Oppn gives notice to Naidu seeking debate on 'economic crisis'
- Winter Session Live: BJP Parliamentary Party meeting underway
- Winter Session Live: MHA says there has been a decline in stone pelting
- Jeff Sessions’ Senate Replacement Will Probably Be More Racist Than Jeff Sessions
Education: What to watch for during Oregon's Legislative Session have 1548 words, post on eu.statesmanjournal.com at January 22, 2019. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.