Senate Bill Creates New Educational Chain Of Command under Governor

Oregon Senate Bill 1581, otherwise known as Oregon’s Achievement Compact, is part of a new state method of setting goals and standards for students and educators alike.

An achievement compact, according to state law, is “a partnership agreement between the state and a school district or other institution of public education that defines key measures of student success and sets targets for achievement, as defined by the district or institution.”

The terms for these achievement compacts will be established by the Oregon Eeucation Investment Board, which is under direction from Senate Bill 253 to meet the goal of 40 percent of Oregonians earning a bachelor’s degree or higher, another 40 percent earning at least an associate’s degree with the final 20 percent earning at least a high school diploma.

Under SB 1581, the OEIB will also control a state “education investment strategy” related to this goal.

Currently, only 15.5 percent of Douglas County residents over 25-years-old have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to U.S. census data.

The legislation took effect March 6, 2012 after passing the Oregon Senate with a house vote of 52 to 8.  

Representatives Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, of district two and Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, of district seven were among those who voted for the passage of the bill, according to the LegiScan website.

The bill is intended to help students finish educational programs with positive outcomes and more employability. However it will give the new chief education officer and the governor who appoints this person a much broader authority.

The bill creates a new chain of command within Oregon’s educational system. The governor is now the person ultimately responsible for the oversight of a newly formed chain of command within education instead of elected school officials such as superintendents.

The governor will essentially appoint a chief educational officer to act as arbitrator and decision maker for Oregon public schools, including community colleges.

The new chief educational officer will oversee the commissioner for community college services, the chancellor of the Oregon University System and the executive director of the Oregon Student Access Commission.

This new chief education officer will also have the power to hire or fire anyone in those positions. Disputes between the new chief educational office and any other position will be referred to the governor for arbitration. The bill states the governor’s decision is final.

Each school, college, university or educational service district, as part of its required achievement compact, must now identify a target number and percentage of students for achievement of the outcomes, measures of progress and goals specified in the institution’s achievement compact for the fiscal year, the new law states.

“The spirit of the achievement contracts is excellent; however, imposing expected outcomes on schools as diverse as UCC and PCC is not going to work,” says UCC Sociology Professor Emery Smith.

Communication will play a large role in the effectiveness of the new legislation and future funding.

The law states that “as part of the process of entering into an achievement compact, the governing body of an education entity shall ensure that open communications are provided to parents, students, teachers or faculty, employees, exclusive bargaining representatives and community representatives for the purposes of explaining and discussing the outcomes, measures of progress, goals and targets specified in the achievement compact for the fiscal year.” The law also states that “open communications must be provided during each education entity’s public budget process.”

Although Educational Achievement compact contracts may be designed by K-12 schools and community colleges, ultimately the newly created education council will specify the format of the achievement compact and provide an example and have the power to approve or reject achievement compacts.

“We are going to be compared to other colleges which makes no sense,” says Smith.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.