SALEM, OR -- State Representative Cheri Helt (R-Bend) introduced a package of bills Wednesday she says would improve Oregon’s K-12 education system. One would fully fund Measure 98 programs; an issue she campaigned on in 2018. Oregon voters approved spending more on dropout prevention and career-technical education (CTE) programs in 2016, but lawmakers have, so far, failed to provide enough money. Helt has proposed HB 2905, which seeks to pay for and expand M98 programs and improve graduation rates. "I believe with career and technical education, we can also lower the cost of housing, if we can get a larger workforce to work in there," says Helt, "Our students need living wage jobs and it’s just a win-win on all fronts."
A second bill would extend Oregon’s open enrollment law, which allows kids to attend school outside their home district. The current law is set to expire this year. Helt tells KBND News her HB 2906 is important because, "The location of a child’s home should not determine the quality level of education that they get. And, options are super important to kids."
The Bend Republican is also the chief sponsor of a resolution to re-prioritize the state budget, "To fully fund education and fund it first before the rest of the budgets, so that it can align with the processes that we already do. And, I also think it’s the biggest investment that we make in our state and it’s the biggest return on investment that we have. So, we should make sure it’s fully funded and funded first." Helt, a former member of the Bend-La Pine School Board, says currently, districts are forced to create their budget before the Legislature decides how much state money will be allocated to K-12 public schools. "This bill would correct a huge problem with funding education after it’s been budgeted for," says Helt. Her resolution would send a constitutional amendment to voters requiring lawmakers to fund schools first in the budgeting process.
Helt says all three proposals have bipartisan support.