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OSBA’s legislative priorities show sense of urgency

The Oregon School Boards Association has called on its membership to advocate for a list of legislative priorities during the upcoming legislative session, and has endorsed Governor John Kitzhaber’s call for enacting "education achievement compacts" with local school districts, the association president said Tuesday.

"While this session is a shortened version, our priorities emphasize the ongoing fight to restore a sense of urgency over the condition of public education in Oregon," said Kris Howatt, president of OSBA. "Statewide, nearly a third of our students fail to earn high school diplomas after four or even five years of high school. Many school districts struggle to maintain their programs in the face of ever-tighter budgets. In short, our sense of urgency is both real and justified."

The association’s legislative priorities fall into three categories:

  • Student achievement. OSBA will vigorously advocate legislation that supports progress in student achievement, Howatt said. "We need to ensure that every student is ready for post-secondary education, whether college or apprenticeship, leading to a career and productive citizenship." By raising the high school graduation rate, more opportunities are available to all students, she added.
  • Shared accountability. OSBA will continue to urge the governor and the legislature to join local school districts and education service districts in sharing accountability for student achievement. "We’re all in this together," Howatt said, "and we all need to acknowledge our respective roles in helping students succeed in their academic careers."
  • Funding. Adequate, stable funding continues to be among OSBA’s primary legislative goals. For the current legislative session, OSBA’s chief objective is to ensure that any budget rebalancing does not reduce funding for K-12, Howatt said. Over the longer term, OSBA will urge the legislature to guarantee schools have the resources to meet their responsibilities. Schools also need relief from state mandates for new or expanded responsibilities without full funding to pay the additional costs, Howatt said. School boards continue to support fiscal impact statements for any legislation under consideration.

The Oregon Education Investment Board has proposed legislation (SB 1581) that would call on local school boards and other public education entities to sign "achievement compacts" with the state. Presented as a replacement to provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the compacts would set planning goals for student achievement and require collaboration in preparing students for post-secondary education.

"If the legislature passes SB 1581, it will help move the ball the forward toward achieving the priorities of Oregon’s school boards," Howatt said.

The leadership of OSBA has encouraged its members to contact their local legislators to stress the importance of enacting the association’s legislative priorities, Howatt added. "This is a critical time for public education," she said. "Many schools are barely holding on because of tight budgets and scarce resources. Never has our legislative agenda been more important."