Mandate removal bill is still in committee

April 5th, 2011 by Kelly

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Mandate removal bill is still in committee
Little concern has been raised about bill that would remove outdated or unneccessary mandates
By: Patrick Johnson
Published: 3/31/2011 9:46:09 AM
SALEM — A bill that would remove 28 outdated and unneeded mandates according to the Oregon Department of Education had its first hearing last week, and so far there has been little concern raised.

Senate Bill 800, a bill that was created over a two-year period by the Department of Education (DOE) meeting with the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon School Boards Association, the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and other interest groups to garner more support for the bill this time around.

Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) is one of the chief sponsors of the bill, as is Senator Suzanne Bonamici (D-Portland), who sits on the Senate Education and Workforce Committee which heard the bill last week.

Officials from the DOE said they don’t know exactly how much money the bill will save, but “considerable staff hours” would be saved by removing the mandates.

“In a time of diminished budgets, we need to focus our scarce resources on the programs and services that truly impact student success,” Cindy Hunt, government and legal affairs manager for the DOE, told the committee. “SB 800 began with a challenge by Superintendent (Susan) Castillo to Department of Education staff to identify unnecessary, outdated and redundant mandates.”

Hunt said that in addition to the 28 legal changes that the DOE would like made by the Legislature, there are also more than 100 administrative rules and policies that are also being reviewed.

Tricia Yates, Legislative and Public Affairs associate executive director for the OSBA, told the committee the bill was one of three bills produced by OSBA and other education groups that were aimed at giving school districts some relief from state mandates.

The two other bills are Senate Bill 560, a bill that would not require school districts to redo a continuous improvement plan if there were no substantial changes to it, and House Bill 3370, which would require a local financial impact statement if any new measure out of the Legislature adds new duties or programs to school districts.

“The passage of this bill would be the first of many steps we can take together to conserve our scarce resources and redirect them to support student achievement,” Yates said.

However not everyone was in favor of deleting some of the legal requirements placed on the Department of Education.

Officials from the Oregon School Activities Association raised concerns that under the bill, the DOE would no longer provide legal help during conflicts that arise around everything from redistricting to specific sport rules changes.

Brad Garrett, assistant executive director of the OSAA, said the current system allowed the DOE to act as an appeal board, and without their oversight there could be added legal costs for his nonprofit.

“What would happen if something was appealed above us?” Garrett asked the committee. “We would be in circuit court.”

Garrett did point out, however, that the OSAA was not opposed to the bill.

Senate Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) put the bill on hold until a financial impact can be created. He also pointed out that if the bill passes his committee, it would head to the Ways and Means Committee.

Wingard said late last week that despite some delays, he still expected the bill to pass. He also said he was monitoring the bill.

Legislative staff said that the bill could come back to Hass’ committee in the next few weeks.