The Ways and Means Co-Chair’s budget includes a significant increase in funding for education, as does the Republican budget. There is also significant movement on the policy front.

The Legislature’s education committees have been hearing a number of education proposals endorsed by the Oregon Business Plan to help students achieve greater education attainment. A bill to coordinate postsecondary funding, HB 3120, is under development in the House Higher Education Committee. Another, SB 270, to authorize independent boards for our largest universities, is going through hearings. HB 2013, to restructure early learning programs, has had its first hearing. The early learning budget, which calls for substantial funding increases, will be taken up in hearings on the Governor’s overall transformation budget for education.

Two weeks ago the Joint Chairs Subcommittee on Education heard and praised presentations from Rudy Crew, Oregon Chief Education Officer, and Ben Cannon in the Governor’s Office, on the need for outcome based budgeting and on proposals to make strategic investments in four specific program initiatives: 1) improve literacy outcomes for children in the early grades, 2) better recruit, prepare, and develop teachers, 3) increase the output of students proficient in science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM disciplines), and 4) help more students aspire to and access postsecondary education. The literacy, postsecondary access, and STEM proposals are contained in HB 3232. The teacher development proposal is in HB 3233.

A separate STEM bill, HB 2636, proposed by the Oregon STEM Employer Coalition and advocated in the Business Plan, has passed out of committee and is now in Ways and Means for alignment with the strategic initiatives in HB 3232. The coalition STEM bill calls for creating a STEM Investment Council to drive strategic investment in pursuit of two goals to be accomplished over the next decade: 1) doubling the percentage of 4th and 8th graders proficient and advanced in math and science, and 2) doubling the number of Oregon STEM postsecondary graduates.