Committee to tour state, seek answers to Oregon's school success dilemma
Several local lawmakers have been named to a new Joint Committee on Student Success at the Oregon Legislature.
The group is planning to tour the state in 2018, seeking answers to Oregon's graduation dilemma, before offering proposed changes. That's the same model used for the 2016-17 ad hoc transportation committee, which put together the $5.3 billion comprehensive transportation package, which passed with bipartisan support in summer 2018.
The percentage of Oregon students who graduate on time has inched up for the past five years but the rate remains third worst in the nation. Only 75 percent of Oregon public high school students graduate on time. The average rate nationwide is 84 percent.
Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas will serve as a co-vice chairman. Boquist's district extends through the western half of Washington County up to Hillsboro.
Also joining the joint House/Senate Committee are Sen. Ginny Burdick, who represents Tigard, and Sen. Mark Hass, who represents Beaverton.
Co-chairs of the committee are Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland. Rep Greg Smith, R-Heppner, will serve as the other co-vice chairman.
The bipartisan committee, with members of the House and Senate, will take a year to tour the state, talking to residents and educators, and exploring best practices employed in Oregon's most successful schools and to address the gaps that are limiting student success in other schools.
"We need to educate Oregon's children the best we possibly can. We need to understand what's working and what's not working," said Senate President Peter Courtney. "We need to figure out how to fill the hole caused by Measures 5 and 50. We need to connect state priorities and funding to local spending."
Measures 5 and 50 in the 1990s limited state funds from property taxes.
"It's time we come out of our corners and solve this problem together," said Speaker of the House Tina Kotek. "Every student deserves a fair shot at success. It's time to come together and forge a path forward that will ensure every child has access to the high-quality schools they deserve."
Boquist, a Republican, said his wish for the ad hoc committee is that it focuses more on education policy and not just on finding new revenue.
"What should the graduates look like in 2030, what should they know, how should it be taught, what should they be able to do?" he asked. "Some would say this is a ploy to simply get more money for the present system that is wholly unprepared for the 21st Century economy. Not going to happen."
Hass, a Democrat, said he's optimistic because the year-long effort to craft a transportation bill worked so well.
"We'll try to find a set of recommendations a year from now, with outcomes. And then we'll have to pay for those recommendations," said Hass, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue.
He said funding options for education could end up being as wide-ranging as another attempted business tax, kicker reform or reform of the property tax system.
Hass has called for longer school years for Oregon's public schools, as well as increased opportunity for college credit for some high school classes. "Who knows? There may be stuff (recommended) that we can't even see right now," he said.
Kotek and Courtney said the committee is expected to develop a plan to improve student success, including a budget proposal that ensures every student in Oregon, regardless of where they go to school, will have the opportunity to achieve success.
The committee will embark on its statewide tour following the 2018 Legislative Session, which is scheduled to end March 11. Lawmakers said they will hear from parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, business leaders and others.
Gov. Kate Brown has pledged her support of the effort and the resources of relevant executive branch agencies.
Kotek and Courtney announced the creation of the committee last week.
Other senate members of the committee include Tim Knopp, R-Bend; Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland; and Alan DeBoer, R-Ashland. Other house members include Brian Clem, D-Salem; Diego Hernandez, D-Portland; Julie Fahey, D-Junction City and West Eugene; Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio; and Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass.