By State Representative Rob Nosse
As I write this, our legislative session is close to ending and we are as busy as ever.
I am lucky to be a member of the Ways and Means Committee, as budget and money allocations in state government speak. My main area of budget focus is Human Services.
In a future column I will talk about programs I worked to fund and improve, including the largest investment our state has made in behavioral and mental health programs and treatment in over three decades.
For this column I will highlight what we are doing to support K-12 education and initiatives in the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
Oregon does its budgets in two-year cycles that we call biennia. This current biennium budget for the ODE will be increased by over $2 billion.
Here is a quick list of new initiatives the Department is undertaking:
● Indigenous Education Institute
● Anti-Racism Leadership program
● STEM program enhancement for diverse students
● Increased funding for the Youth Corrections Education Program & Juvenile Detention Education Program (YCEP/JDEP)
● Increased funding for the LatinX education success plan
● Major Early Learning Initiatives including a Tribal Early Learning Hub
● Increased funding for Relief Nurseries and Parenting Education
In a different education budget bill, we allocated $9.3 billion to the State School Fund to help fund K-12 education in all of the state’s 197 school districts.
This budget has a 3.3 percent increase over current service levels and another 3.3 percent over the budget we approved in 2019.
The $9.3 billion will be combined with almost $4.6 billion in local revenue as well as over $2 billion from the Corporate Activity Tax adopted in 2019 for one of the largest education budgets in the history of our state.
This increase in funding will be crucial to making sure we can safely reopen schools and properly fund all the programs needed to ensure our students’ success.
In addition, we just passed SB 52, which directs ODE to develop and implement a statewide education plan for LGBTQ2SIA+ students to ensure their success in our schools. We passed House Bill 2016 in 2015, which created a similar plan for Black students.
We also passed HB 3363; a bill that establishes the Racial Equity and Justice Student Council and HB 2166 directing the State Board of Education to adopt content standards for Social/Emotional Learning for K-12.
It aims to prevent suspension and expulsion from early care and education programs across Oregon.
As for higher education, our 2021-23 biennium budget increases funding beyond current service level as well, hopefully helping our community colleges and state universities to welcome students back to on-campus learning and keep tuition increases low.
I also want to highlight two other higher education bills:
SB 551 allows part time faculty who work over 600 hours at different institutions over the course of a year to finally receive health care benefits.
The state will cover 90 percent of the premium, while the employee covers 10 percent. This bill has taken a decade to pass and was a long time coming.
HB 2835 requires colleges to have benefits navigators trained to assist students with applying for and receiving need-based financial benefits provided by federal, state and local programs. Benefits navigators provide would assistance with filling out forms and applications for programs like food stamps or the Oregon Health Plan.
I know these budgets are important to lots of my constituents with kids in our school or maybe even young adults who are reading this trying to afford a community college or university education on their own.
They are important to me, too. I got my start in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a student activist trying to keep tuition low and school affordable when I was in college. My husband and I cared about the Portland Public Schools and the funding they got from the state as we raised our own two children.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned. I will try to summarize other budget and legislative topics in future columns and try to remember to share a little bit about what is going on with the process around redistricting too.