Rep. Brad Witt E-News March 25, 2015

Volume 9 Number 8

Brad Witt

E-Newsletter March 25, 2015

Hello Friends,

We receive a lot of letters from constituents, and other stakeholders, on a myriad of issues.  The latest flurry of emails has come from parents, teachers, and administrators regarding funding levels for K-12 education.  All of the letters we received were very concerned that the amount identified by the Co-Chairs of Ways and Means would be inadequate, and that indeed, the proposed $7.235 billion would result in further cuts. Our Legislative Fiscal Office, on the other hand, has indicated that that amount would allow schools to fund current programs, with a little extra to start rebuilding. It’s important to understand that there are many moving parts here, and the actual number is less important than making sure that funding is adequate so that school districts can provide an excellent education.

Although the Governor develops a budget for the biennium, it is largely a point of departure for the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee.  Over 95% of general fund revenues go to pay for education, human services and public safety.  Everything else we fund out of our general fund comes from the remaining 5%.  So, with a finite amount of money available, we must be mindful that giving larger amounts to one segment will likely cause another to have less.  Education funding accounts for approximately 52% of general fund revenues. 

In addition, there are other complications…in order to really know what kind of a hand we have been dealt we need to wait for the May Revenue Forecast, which will tell us how our state’s recovery is progressing.  We are also waiting to see if our state’s infamous “kicker” will trigger the return of about $350 million back to the taxpayers.  If that happens, the Ways and Means Committee will have to go back to the drawing board to once again balance the books.  Luckily, we have an extraordinarily talented committee and staff to make that happen, and I have every confidence our children’s education funding is in good hands.  In addition, you can be sure that all 90 legislators are committed to a robust education budget.

Another source of letters, and a lot of media coverage, has been concern with the number and quality of statewide tests being administered to our students.  Ever since “No Child Left Behind,” testing has placed an inordinate amount of pressure on students, teachers and administrators, and the expectation that increased testing would produce improved outcomes has been disappointing.  Many parents are questioning this approach and requesting that their children be excused from statewide testing based on a predicted 60-70% failure rate.  This would leave lasting and profound effects on our children.  In Oregon, we are transitioning from a test that we have used since 1991, to another one called Smarter Balanced Assessments.  This transition is taking place now.

In this environment of changing expectations and changing methods of measurement, how do we make sure that children are meeting expected learning goals?  Also, how do we make sure that both teachers and students are fairly evaluated? The answer seemed to be to continue to test students, see how accurate the new tests are, and make more informed decisions after the 2014-2015 school year.  With this objective, HB 2680 passed the House last week and it prohibits using the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments from being used to rate schools, teachers or administrators during this year of transition.  The bill also requires the Superintendent of Instruction to convene a work group to review the results of this assessment, among other things, and report back to the State Board of Education and the Legislature. 

Yours truly,

Representative Brad Witt
House District 31


Wall that Heals

Wall that Heals in Rainier.

Rainier JR/SR High History Club, you make a difference and set an example of what a passionate group can accomplish. Thank you Vietnam Veterans, we honor your service.

For more information on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the wall replica and the education center see: www.vvmf.org


St H Boy scouts

Thank you Scouts from Saint Helens for serving as honorary pages on the Floor of the House of Representatives!  

Page service is a unique honor with a rich history dating back to medieval times. Serving as a page, young people learn about the legislative process and get to see, firsthand, the House of Representatives in action as well as having the chance to become familiar with the Oregon State Capitol building and its rich history.

If you know an interested young person, please contact our office. 

email: Rep.BradWitt@state.or.us I phone: 503-986-1431
address: 900 Court St NE, H-374, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/witt