The COVID pandemic has made it clear that Oregon legislators must continue to prioritize access to in-person education during the 2022 legislative session. All of OBI’s 1,600-plus members rely on the effectiveness of our public education system, from pre-K through postsecondary. To continue to recover economically, our students must remain in the classroom, and need-based aid programs that support postsecondary students must be fully funded. New legislation must consider the help Oregon students will need as many recover from academic deficits due to challenges with nontraditional learning platforms.
Protect Post-Secondary Success: Oregon employers depend on our state’s public education system to produce an educated workforce. We must recognize that the face of post-secondary education in Oregon has changed. If we want to protect opportunities for Oregon’s non-white communities, the state should maintain investments in our higher education institutions and need-based aid programs. The state must increase funding to post-secondary institutions with current resources before giving dollars to new projects.
OBI supports development of postsecondary options that provide credentialing or training to prepare Oregonians for the workforce. The state should remove barriers to transferring credits earned in high school, especially through a career and technical education program of study, to four-year colleges and universities. OBI supports legislation that helps align credit options to minimize student debt.
Workforce Development: Employers everywhere in Oregon face a workforce shortage. OBI supports the use of remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds to modernize apprenticeship programs, increase adult learner grants and invest in new technology.
Transparency and Accountability: OBI supports spending transparency throughout the education system, from individual school districts to the Oregon Department of Education. Every dollar should be accounted for and tied to measurable outcomes for Oregon’s students.
Education Stability: Stabilizing the entire education continuum must be a priority in every budget cycle. The state’s budget writers should focus on maintaining critical programs and serving students most adversely affected by distance learning, including low-income students and special learners. New programs should not be launched unless they are determined to be critical, and their costs should be covered by budgetary reductions elsewhere. Legislators also should evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs when making budget decisions.
Equity and the Digital Divide: The current economic and health crisis has exacerbated educational inequities affecting low-income and rural students who do not have reliable access to distance learning. OBI supports legislation that strengthens distance learning programming, including public-private partnerships that facilitate the connection between marginalized students and their teachers. OBI recognizes that minority communities continue to be underserved by our existing education system and supports programs to close the achievement gap.
Student Success Act: OBI supports legislation that ensures appropriate oversight of Student Success Act (SSA) expenditures and holds the Department of Education and school districts accountable to stated goals and outcomes. OBI believes any amendments to accountability measures (testing, etc.) should accurately track student and teacher progress to keep programs on schedule and increase graduation rates. When possible, policymakers should encourage districts to increase access to programs in science, technology, engineering, math, financial literacy and career and technical education. To the extent that projected funding for the SSA falls short of projections for the biennium due to economic conditions, OBI will support efforts to maintain existing programs but delay new ones until the economy has recovered.
Continuation of CTE/STEM Investments: OBI supports continuation of CTE/STEM policies that include, but are not limited to, weighted funding, continued funding for revitalization grants, teacher licensure pathways, regional hubs, and course equivalency standards. The Legislature must encourage the Oregon Department of Education and school districts to adopt career readiness goals from which all Oregon students can benefit.