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Bennett's Blog: ESDs, small schools, and funding Print E-mail

chuck-bennett.jpgby Chuck Bennett, Director of Government Relations

It happens every two years. Well, at least it used to – now it’s an annual occurrence. The Legislature comes to town and begins the process that will lead to a state budget and some new state laws.

Given that 70 percent of local school funding comes from the state, this is a very big deal to us. And, as sure as daylight savings time will be here in a few weeks, there will be new laws aimed at “improving” education in Oregon.

On the first day of the Session, nearly four weeks ago, legislators introduced 1,600 bills and then they went home. One of the questions every lobbyist asks themselves is whether to immediately post all of the bills. Let’s be honest with each other – some of these bills are fairly radical and nearly all of them will fail during the several months of hearings ahead.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

ESDs

“ESDs shall…” – then add just about anything you can think of that will change the way they do business. This issue has gotten so hot that even the Governor got involved and suggested in his budget that the state’s ESDs won’t get any money from the State School Fund.

I’m going to be very frank on this one. Legislators don’t understand what ESDs do but they do read newspapers and the news over the past couple of years has not been good. Negative news stories mean angry voters which combine to prompt corrective legislation from lawmakers.

Reading the bills coupled with rehashes of the news stories that got everyone excited and then add comments from current lawmakers and you’d naturally come to the conclusion that ESDs are about to be put out of business. That’s not going to happen. The proposal to cut all state ESD funding, for example, is extremely unlikely to happen.

But, don’t think there won’t be new laws governing ESDs. There will be. Most likely they will call for increased auditing, changes in governance structure, more flexibility for local districts to purchase services from other than their local ESD and a year-long project to develop business plans for ESDs to be presented to the next session of the Legislature.

Small School Correction

Another concern I’ve heard about is the suggested likelihood that the Small School Correction won’t be renewed. Yes it will and it will with help from COSA, which has traditionally been the sponsor of the legislation.

School Funding

Some people have expressed concern that school funding will be as low as $5.3 billion. Let me be clear about this: No, it won’t. It will be at least $5.557 billion for the biennium, and is likely to end up somewhere north of $5.7 billion. “North” is definitely where I’m putting my money.

Finally, I mentioned posting all the bills.  You can expect us to post a categorized and germane set of bills on the COSA website in the next few days.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please call or e-mail.  Or post a comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
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Principal
written by Joe Frazier, February 08, 2011
Thanks Chuck,
It's reassuring for us to hear. The demise of the ESD would be a huge blow at a critical time. Also, glad to hear NORTH of 5.7 b, obviously we would like 6.0, but will settle for what ever we get. Are you hearing more on the revenue side, or more on the tax side??? All I hear from my rep is CUT, CUT and more cut.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, February 08, 2011 .