Oregon House passes bill now before the Senate

State senators could vote to require a teacher majority on the board that makes recommendations to state legislators on investments in education agencies and institutions that affect students — and Lake Oswego educators and the school board support the legislation.

The Oregon House of Representatives on Friday approved House Bill 4127-A, which makes changes to the Oregon Education Investment Board, requiring that four of the 13-member OEIB must work or have worked in primary or secondary education and two of those board members are or were licensed teachers. The board represents kindergarten to college students and efforts to transition people into the work force.

Lake Oswego School Board Chairwoman Patti Zebrowski said board members back the bill.

“There’s no better presence than teachers to make board representatives understand the impact of what they’re doing,” Zebrowski said.

The educators currently on the board include one K-12 teacher.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, who spearheaded the OEIB in 2011 to further his goal to improve schools, is the board’s chairman, and he appoints the other 12 members. If the bill passes, the governor could remove a member of the board at any time to comply with the new regulations.

Lake Oswego Education Association President Laura Paxson Kluthe submitted written testimony supporting the bill, which is at a public hearing today before the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development. Paxson Kluthe’s letter said the board “has little representation from educational practitioners (who must ultimately be the delivery mechanism for every mandate that emerges from the federal, the state and the local levels).”

She referenced state legislators’ decision on teacher evaluations and student assessments as changes that affect already busy teachers, cutting into instruction time.

“And, despite the fact that some of the current members of the OEIB are superintendents or college presidents, they are not familiar with the current realities on the ground for K-12 teachers,” said Paxson Kluthe, a Lake Oswego High School social studies teacher.

Paxson Kluthe said she hopes the legislation will pass because having teachers’ voices on the board’s committees will provide “constant reality checks.”

Lakeridge High School social studies teacher Ryan Rosenau said the bill is encouraging.

“I think there’s sometimes a discrepancy in what people believe is good for education and what actually works in the classroom,” Rosenau said.

Lake Oswego High School social studies teacher Andrew Duden said the bill is a “prudent and logical step for the Oregon state Legislature.”

“Teachers will provide great insight into the funding needs of schools,” Duden said.

In addition to the OEIB board member who is a teacher at a K-12 school, there are two OEIB members who are educators at the post-secondary level, two school district superintendents, a community college president and several members who are on or have been on education boards and agencies, according to the OEIB website.

Paxson Kluthe said she has attended four OEIB meetings. Few board members attended two of those meetings, and the sole K-12 teacher on the OEIB was the only board member at one meeting.

In response to the Review's request for information, an OEIB staff representative said inquiries should be sent to House Speaker Tina Kotek's office.

The OEIB bill may not pass at all, depending on the Senate, and similar legislation has failed before. But the bill has staunch supporters.

“This is a critical time for Oregon public schools,” said Kotek, D-Portland, who sponsored the bill. “Whether it’s reinvesting in school funding or setting policy that will deliver the best results, we’ve got to get this right. Strengthening Oregon’s education system will ensure every child has a shot at (a) prosperous future.”

By Jillian Daley
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