Legislative Highlights, and a call to action on ESEA

The 2015 Session of the Oregon Legislature ended July 6 and many significant education bills passed.  At the Federal level, your help is needed to contact Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley about ESEA reauthorization.   Following are highlights.

Oregon. 

Education funding

  • Although Oregon PTA and our education partners estimated $7.5B was needed to maintain current service levels, $7.25B was signed into law in April (HB 5017A). A positive revenue forecast added another $105M, and increases from state land board funds and other sources brought the funding to $7.4B.  Thank you to all of you who contacted your legislators to increase state school funding.  We will continue our efforts to obtain adequate and stable education funding in future biennia.
  • Early childhood programs are a priority of Governor Brown. Several bills provide for additional investments in Early Learning Hubs, preschool programs, and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education, (HB 5016, 3380 and SB 5507).
  • Several bills were aimed at preparing students for good jobs. There was increased funding for Science, Technology, Education and Math Hubs, STEM Revitalization and STEM Innovation grants, Career and Technical Education summer programming, and new Career Pathway Fund funding HB 3072, HB 5016, SB 81)
  • Additional resources are allocated ($12.5M every two years) for English Language Learners, and African American and Native American students, in the hopes of improving graduation rates for some of Oregon’s K-12 students (HB 5016, HB 3499).
  • The Oregon PTA testified in favor of SB 447 to provide state matching dollars for local communities to make capital bond investments in their schools. The bill passed on July 6, which means about $300M for school construction.
  • Increased funding for Opportunity grants will provide students greater access to college (HB 2407) and SB 81 provides for community college tuition waiver for persons meeting criteria, starting in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Education reform, assessments, student achievement,

  • The Oregon Education Investment Board was Oregon’s overarching education Board, chaired by the Governor, and responsible for a seamless education system from pre-school through college and Oregon’s ambitious “40-40-20” goals.

Oregon PTA has been active in a Senate work group on SB 215, regarding the OEIB.  The bill abolished the Board but retained a Chief Education Office and Officer (Dr. Nancy Golden), who will coordinate with education stakeholders to establish a unified public education system, remove barriers and focus on equity and transitions to ensure that students reach educational goals.  Achievement compacts will no longer be required.  We continue to be involved in the work group, focusing on student achievement, outcome measures and governance to assure a seamless education system.

  • Beginning next spring, schools will be required to notify families about state testing, including exempting their child for any reason (HB 2655). The US Department of Education requires testing of 95% of students or risk losing federal funding.  Governor Brown signed the bill but said, “”Educators must engage with parents about the value of assessment and the potential consequences if parents opt out and student participation diminishes. We cannot afford to risk losing federal dollars, especially for students who have been traditionally underserved.”
  • Oregon Education Association, Oregon Department of Education, and OEIB collaborated on assessment alternatives. Their reports can be seen here and the feedback is located here.
  • OPTA participated in the forums, and is highly supportive of the proposed changes as a means to empower student learning. SB 418 will help students access appropriate challenges and earn college credit.
  • Several entities collaborated on the OEIB’s 2015 Educator Equity report, with recommendations for closing the gap between the demographics of the K‐12 educator workforce and the students they serve. The report is located here.

Student Data Privacy.  Oregon PTA was active on bills to protect student privacy.

  • Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s innovative SB 187A to protect student information and place restrictions on advertising and selling data re: K-12 students will be effective July 1, 2016.
  • Oregon PTA participated in a state work group leading to several bills sponsored by Rep. Lew Frederick. HB 2715 helps protect dissemination of personally identifiable student data, and became effective July 1.

Healthy, safe kids

  • Oregon PTA provided testimony in favor of SB 941, requiring criminal background checks in transfer of firearms. The Governor signed the bill into law on May 11.
  • HB 2545 provides free lunches to eligible students, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, and will help assure that students can afford lunch so they can focus on learning.
  • HB 2404 adjusts school food and beverage nutritional standards for snacks sold to students to comply with federal standards, effective July 1, 2015.
  • In the 2016-17 school year, Oregon students starting school will be required to have dental screenings (HB 2972).
  • SB 79 requires school district to provide instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and uses of automated external defibrillators, effective July 1, 2015.
  • HB 2661 adds to school drills and instruction on safety threats, procedures for lockdown, lockout, shelter in place and evacuation, effective July 1, 2015.
  • SB 895 requires information regarding immunizations to be made available, with the effect of making make school immunization rates more accessible to parents.  The bill is awaiting signature by the Governor, and takes effect upon passage.

Other

  • SB 321 lowers the compulsory age for school attendance from 7 years old to 6, effective July 1, 2016.

Federal

Implementation of the Elementary and Secondary Education/No Child Left Behind Act (which provides equal access to education through Title I programs) has led to what some describe as federal overreach. ESEA reauthorization is a key priority of many education groups, including the National PTA.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are considering reauthorization bills.  Floor discussion of the Senate Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) began July 7, and is expected to continue until next week.  The Senate committee’s summary of the bill is here.

The NPTA is advocating for family engagement amendments. Their statement on the bill is here.

Oregon PTA members received a call to action from NPTA to contact your Senator (Senator Wyden or Merkley).  If you haven’t already done so, please click here.

On July8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).

Here is the link to the National PTA statement on the House Passage of the Student Success Act: http://www.pta.org/newsevents/newsdetail.cfm?ItemNumber=4504

A Heartfelt “Thank You!”  Oregon PTA thanks Governor Brown, and legislators including Senate Education Chair Senator Arnie Roblan, House Education Chair Rep. Margaret Doherty, and Ways and Means Co-Chairs Senator Richard Devlin and Representative Peter Buckley for their support of public education; our education partners including Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Boards Association, Confederation of Oregon School Administrators for their advocacy; and you, Oregon PTA members.  We look forward to continued collaboration on our shared goals of student achievement, and helping ALL Oregon students fulfill their promise!

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