Senate Bills 242 and 909 target efficiency and effectiveness
Oregon Senate Bill 242, signed into law by the governor this summer, will begin to have important effects at Portland State and throughout the Oregon University System in the coming months.
While the bill was signed into law at the end of July, implementation of the bill will really begin this coming January, said Diane Saunders, director of Communications in the OUS Chancellor’s office.
OUS and individual universities are beginning to work on transitions such as legal process to get ready for the major shifts in policy, Saunders said.
SB 242 “redefines Oregon University System as public university system with more authority and independence to manage affairs, operations and obligations.” For example, before SB 242 was passed, PSU had to ask permission to spend leftover tuition funds, Saunders explained. With the new bill, Oregon universities are able to use those funds for improvements to the universities or other projects.
“In the past you had to estimate tuition dollars coming in [to PSU] up to a year before they came in,” Saunders said. “If you got more money than you expected, than you would have to go back and ask permission from the Oregon legislature to use it.” Sometimes they would say “no.”
In the next couple of months, Saunders said that one of the main pieces of the transition to the new system involves moving away from working with the department of justice.
“We’re [now] responsible with all of our own legal [work] and risk,” Saunders said. “We’re working to transition away from the department of justice so we’re ready in January 2012.”
Another recently passed bill, Oregon Senate Bill 909, additionally aims to increase flexibility and efficiency within the entire Oregon education system.
Oregon SB 909 “establishes Oregon Education Investment Board for purpose of ensuring equitable outcomes for public school students by overseeing unified public education system that begins with early childhood services and continues throughout public education from kindergarten to post-secondary education.”
As President Wim Wiewel’s Chief of Staff Lois Davis explained, the bill calls for everyone involved to start looking at education “horizontally instead of vertically.”
What this means is that instead of each educational institution or agency working separately from one another, there will now be more integration between them. The aim is to create a more effective and efficient
“We’re doing what we can to be helpful, so that students come to college ready to learn,” Davis said.
Because some of the kinks are still being worked out of the bill, Davis said no one is entirely sure what the outcomes of SB 909 will be. However, over the summer, a think-tank type of organization called Learnworks was assembled to discuss how education in Oregon should be based on outcomes and quality instead of just the number of students, graduates or degrees.
“Higher-ed looks at retention rates, and degree completion,” Saunders said. “But how are we doing with underserved students, economically disadvantaged students, or students of color?”
Next Wednesday, PSU will be hosting a forum that will discuss and answer questions regarding the Oregon Education Investment Board created by SB 909. Participants at the forum will include PSU President Wim Wiewel, Oregon Student Association Executive Director Emily McLain and PSU professor Samuel Henry, among others. The event will run from 3–5 p.m. in the Native American Student and Community Center.