Will education bills help?

POLK COUNTY -- Several changes are in store for K-12 schools and universities following a swath of education bills approved during the nearly-adjourned 2011 Oregon Legislature.

POLK COUNTY -- Several changes are in store for K-12 schools and universities following a swath of education bills approved during the nearly-adjourned 2011 Oregon Legislature.

That includes making it easier for students to transfer from one school district to another, an opt-out provision for districts from regional education service districts and an additional $25 million in funding.

Some of these new laws -- or soon-to-be new laws -- are drawing a lukewarm response from local education officials.

"I think lawmakers are saying, `we've finally done something about education,'" Central School District interim superintendent Forrest Bell said. "But we'll see if what the legislature believes is going to happen is actually going to happen.

"I think there may be a disconnect there," Bell continued.

Senate Bill 250, one of 14 bills passed during the session last week, will let school districts determine whether to contract services through their local education service districts.

Christy Perry, Dallas School District superintendent, said she worries about too many large districts withdrawing.

"If every big district opts out, that will raise the prices of services for everybody else," Perry said. "Small schools are really dependent on ESDs and this will further the gap for what a small district can do for kids."

House Bill 3681 will allow students to enroll in any district of their choice, so long as the receiving district grants permission. Most Polk County school districts already have agreements with one another to allow for transfers.

Falls City School District allows moves for certain education situations.

Bell said his fear is that districts will begin recruiting students from neighboring districts. Perry also said the bill puts more administrative responsibility on the receiving district.

House Bill 5055 will add $25 million more in funding for districts during the second year of the 2011-13 biennium.

The state, with Senate Bill 248, prompts school districts to have all-day kindergarten in place by 2015. Most educators agree with offering such programs, in concept.

"The issue is there's not going to be more money in the state school fund," Perry said. "The pie is what it is ... you just have to divide it up more."

The Legislature and Education

Other education bills of note include:

* House Bill 3645 -- Broadens the list of potential sponsors of a charter school to include community colleges and four-year institutions.

* Senate Bill 253 -- Creates goals that call for 40 percent of Oregonians to have bachelor's degrees or better by 2025, 40 percent having some post-secondary education, and the balance, at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

* House Bill 3471 -- Qualifies some foster children who go through state-sponsored care for free tuition at community colleges and four-year public universities. Total cost to the state for a projected 244 students is $1.06 million.

* Senate Bill 290 -- This would require the Oregon Board of Education to develop performance standards for teachers and administrators to determine their effectiveness. The standards would be adopted by the state board and school districts would have to adjust, incorporate and adopt them by 2013.

Dead bill

* Senate Bill 742 -- proposed allowing undocumented students who have lived in the United States for five years, three in Oregon, to pay in-state tuition instead of far more expensive out-of-state costs.

The bill stalled after lawmakers failed to acquire enough signatures to bring it out of a House committee for a vote.

Log in to comment

News from the Itemizer-Observer and our community partners