Home arrow COSA Blogs arrow Bennett's Blog: Recap of the 2010 supplemental session
Bennett's Blog: Recap of the 2010 supplemental session Print E-mail

"All I say is, kings is kings, and you got to make allowances. Take them all around, they're a mighty ornery lot. It's the way they're raised." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Chuck Bennett, Director of Government Relations
It chuck-bennett.jpgtook 25 days and in the end the Oregon Legislature closed itself – and the February 2010 supplemental session – down debating whether it should meet more often. The closing two days were ended when the gavel went down on a proposal going to Oregon voters asking if legislators should meet annually rather than once every two years.

“What?” you ask. Yes, the legislature has been meeting annually for the past few years in premeditated special sessions. The measure to voters would institutionalize that practice and set limits on the number of days the lawmakers could meet.  The whole thing melted down as Senators held firm on a 180 total days over two years split into a 135 and 45 day meetings and House members countered with a 165-35 split. The final version going to the voters sort of split the difference with an odd numbered year session of 160 days and 35 days in election years.

The whole dispute had the eerie feeling of trying to match the number of school days that could have been paid for if the legislature hadn’t met its promise to fund schools this biennium at $6 billion.

The funding issue dominated COSA’s efforts throughout the session. We had regular meetings with House and Senate leadership to clarify several points involving the allocation of the funds for schools promised in the current budget. The allocation was being jeopardized by the continuing downward trend in state revenue forecasts. Last session the legislature had appropriated $5.8 billion to the State School Fund with another $200 million available this June depending on economic conditions in the state. In the end the legislature made several changes to the funding sources and allocation method to release $200 million that was being held in reserve for schools. The legislature did this to give districts assurances during this budget cycle that the $6 billion funding level will be met.

The second school-related issue making headlines during the session was the fate of ESDs. The perennial issue of whether 20 ESDs is just enough or too many was raised.  The Governor’s Reset Committee reported it is in the midst of studying regional service delivery models and how best to meet the needs of students and school districts statewide. Several options were described including elimination of the existing ESD boundaries in favor of large regional service programs specializing in a variety of services. Issues of concern included loss of local control, potential loss of local property tax revenues now accruing to the existing ESDs, status of employee contracts, status of existing facilities, and a host of other issues.

Specific legislation dealing with ESDs included a bill that would allow school districts the option of participating in their local ESD. The bill, which came late in the Session, contained several flaws unrelated to the opt-out provision and did not move out of committee. In the end the ESDs were cut $10 million in State School Funds, about the same share they would have received from the $200 million that was guaranteed in the revised budget bill mentioned above.

Also passed was a bill eliminating laws against teachers wearing religious garb to work. It was a lengthy and fairly heated debate but ultimately it was agreed that the prohibition needed to be lifted and that students were protected from be proselytized by other limitations on religious content in classrooms.

The legislature also passed a bill requiring defibrillators on school campuses by 2015.

Otherwise, most legislation dealing with education mandates, laws or funding issues failed including the anticipated referral of the kicker law to voters. This failure was widely criticized and legislators, who argued that the bruising Measures 66 &67 campaign had left voters unwilling to take on another heated tax related campaign, promised to take it up in the 2011 Session.

So, here's how the leaders analyze the Session just completed:

“I think we passed a broader range of more substantial bills creating jobs and helping struggling families than I would have predicted a month ago,” reported House Speaker Dave Hunt.

And from the other side of the aisle, “The only employment that is growing is state government employment. And the only increase in spending, biennium after biennium, at the pace it is is state government spending,” responded House Republican Leader Bruce Hanna.

Comments (2)Add Comment
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Come visit our ESD before making decisio
written by Scott Perry, March 01, 2010
If Toyota has performance and quality challenges, do we find ways to penalize Ford Motor Corporation? If McDonald’s sells a bad burger, do we threaten to shut down Burger King and Wendy’s? If an apple has a bad spot, do we toss the bushel? When I was a child my grandmother wouldn’t even toss the apple – she would cut out the bad spot and use the rest to fill out a delicious pie.

Southern Oregon ESD is an outstanding organization. We may not be much to look at from the outside. Our buildings are modest but clean, neat and functional. Our board is dedicated, conscientious, caring and helps keep us accountable. Our services are valued by the districts we serve and we have data indicating that we bring them both quality and efficiency. Our partnerships with other ESDs in areas such as regional special education service delivery and online education help enhance that efficiency. Our accounting practices are clean, transparent and laced with integrity.

Our work ethic is strong, our people capable, our ethics respectable and our services to schools and children – effective and efficient.

When ESD funding is cut and ESD services questioned … well, I just wish those in key decision-making positions, and those in key positions of advocacy and influence, would come visit before such decisions are made and see what we do and how we do it. Come visit us. Examine our books. Observe our staff. Talk with the districts we serve.

To help save money they can come stay at my home in Central Point. I have a guest bedroom and I’m not a bad cook.

…and I will personally cover the cost of meals.
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Superintendent
written by Edward Jensen, March 02, 2010
Way to go Scott Perry!!!!! You are exactly right. However, you are going to end up as old as I am before you get "valley" legislator's or ODE to come and spend the time it takes to see what it is your ESD does for your schools. Senator Nelson has taken the time to come and visit this ESD on several ocassions. He and other Eastern Oregon legislators know we are important/vital to our schools - not because of who we are, but because of what we do.

Unfortuneately, time, treasure, and effort will once again have to be exepended by ESD's like ours because of the false "one size fits all" concept some have, the power mongering, and the concept of "to big to fail."

The insanity of the solution to the problem is to make big ESD's even bigger by merging the smaller ESDs that have never been at the center of the issues. Go figure. As you so aptly mentioned, the problems appear to be with only one ESD - I can't imagine the frustration and despondancy felt by the "big" ESDs that are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

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This page was last updated on Monday, March 01, 2010 .