First in a Series on the Oregon Legislature’s Accomplishments by Addie Greene

The Legislature, whose 2019 session ended June 30, passed seven bills supporting educational opportunities for all Oregonians. They are:

            HB 3427 decreases personal income tax rates and imposes a corporate activity tax, exempting persons with taxable commercial activity of $1 million or less. This portion of HB 3427 is what so exercised Republican lawmakers, who claimed the legislation was a socialist plot and that the taxes levied would not be used for education. The bill also directs the state to study the best methods for funding K-12, with a report due by September 15, 2020. HB 3427 directs the Department of Education to provide technical assistance related to grants, expands the school breakfast and lunch programs, and provides funding for summer learning programs in some districts and funding for an early warning system for high school graduation. It also prohibits local government from imposing taxes on commercial activity or receipts from grocery sales, other than existing taxes. It will take effect January 1, 2020.

            SB 3 permits community colleges to offer applied baccalaureate degree programs under specified conditions and upon receiving approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

            SB 155 requires investigations of all reports involving suspected abuse or suspected sexual conduct by school employees, contractors, agents, and volunteers. It prohibits an individual who is a school employee, contractor, or agent from assisting another school employee, contractor, or agent in obtaining a new job if the individual knows or has probable cause to believe the school employee, contractor, or agent engaged in abuse or sexual conduct with a student.

            SB 664 requires school districts to provide instruction about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. It directs the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to school districts and requires the State Board of Education to develop academic content standards for Holocaust and genocide studies, with school districts required to provide instruction based on these standards by the 2025-2026 school year.

            SB 859 exempts graduate students at public universities who qualify for tuition equity from having to pay nonresident tuition. This will increase Dreamers’ access to Oregon in-state tuition. Sen. Jeff Golden was a sponsor.

            HB 2191 expands reasons for excused absences from school to include mental and behavioral health.

            HB 2023 directs the State Board of Education to ensure that academic content standards for certain subjects include sufficient instruction on histories, contributions, and perspectives of certain classifications of individuals. The legislation directs those responsible for the adoption of textbooks and other instructional materials to address the roles of the economic, political, and social development of Oregon and the United States by certain classifications of individuals.

Addie Greene, Ashland