2013 Legislative Session Ends What's next for public education?
In the afternoon of Monday, July 8, the Oregon Legislative Assembly brought the gavel down bringing an end to the 2013 regular session. During the session, lawmakers saw the economy improve, increased their investment in K-12 schools, reduced retirement benefits for educators and retirees and approved a number of key policy bills that impact the lives of all Oregonians.
OEA will soon be producing an in-depth, end-of-session report as well as a scorecard for how your elected official voted on key pieces of education legislation. Be sure to check back at our website in the next few weeks at http://www.oregoned.org/stay-informed/legislature-election. In the meantime, here's a quick summary of legislative highlights:
- Lawmakers approved a $6.55 billion budget for K-12 schools. This allocation, coupled with $800 million in reductions to retirement benefits for educators and seniors (see Jeers section below), is an important step in reversing the decade-long disinvestment in our schools. For most school districts this budget will stave off more cuts. For a few districts, they'll be able to add back teachers and valuable programs, but for some districts the budget will still mean layoffs and lost programs for kids.
- OEA's Class Size bill to become law. Oregon will now have the real story about our growing class size crisis. OEA's bill, House Bill 2644, will ensure we are able to tell the true class size story by accurately measuring student-to-teacher ratios.
- Retirement within reach for more Oregonians. With the passage of House Bill 3436, a task force will study and recommend a solution that will enable all working Oregonians to save for retirement.
- Retirees, educators, firefighters, and other front-line workers shoulder the burden. With the passage of Senate Bill 822, legislators reduced retirement benefits by $800 million for current and future public employee retirees. On a related note, OEA joined in coalition to ask the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the bill.
- Corporations and the wealthy get off the hook. Senate Republicans dug in their heels and refused to ask profitable corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share to fund our schools and other vital services.
- Community colleges won't get corporate kicker. A bill that would have redirected this year's corporate kicker to the Community College Support Fund died in the Senate. The budget for community colleges will be $450 million for the 2013-15 biennium.
- Missed opportunity to increase voter participation. The State Senate failed - by one vote - to approve House Bill 3521. The bill that would have removed barriers to voting and greatly increase voting participation in the state.