Representative Barnhart Speaking to a Bill on the House Floor


Greetings,

The 2011 Legislative Session has come to a close! My colleagues and our staff are happy to see the session end on schedule. There was much to accomplish in the final days of the session. Before we could go back to our respective districts we had to pass the final 'sine die' bill. For the first time in a century the Legislature redistricted itself and the Congressional districts. We passed a too small but balanced budget, further opened our government to public view, and pursued economic development and job growth. There is still much to do.

Sincerely,

Phil


Oregon is Transforming Health Care

The legislature was able to pass the Health Care Transformation Bill (HB 3650), The bill was designed to achieve better health outcomes and cost savings in the Oregon Health Plan through the creation of Coordinated Care Organizations.

Kids Lunches: From Farm to School

House Bill 2800, the "Farm to School Bill," passed the legislature. The bill leverages state dollars to invest Federal School Nutrition Program funds to buy local produce and food. This bill will help create jobs, stimulate our local economy, and keep our children healthy.

Women and Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers:

The United States Department of Agriculture has set up an administrative claims process to compensate Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking farm loans between 1981 and 2000. If this applies to you may click here to file a claim .


Here are photos of my colleagues and me in two of my committees.


Revenue Committee Members

Joint Tax Credit Committee Members


It was an honor to serve you this legislative session. Thank you for the opportunity.

Legislative Report

Rapidly growing out-of-state for-profit businesses had a big win as the Legislature winds down the 2011 Regular Session. Two companies, headquartered in Virginia and Baltimore, will be able to expand their student numbers in Oregon from about 2,500 to over 16,500 because of the passage of HB 2301, the so called “Virtual Schools Bill.” Not only did the regular school districts oppose the bill but so did the community based charter schools. Why?

Oregon requires that charter schools, including virtual charter schools, be non-profit corporations, but there is no restriction on contracting with for-profit corporations to manage and run the “schools.”  Businesses use this loophole to reap very high profits. How high? Nobody knows. They do not have to release that information and what they do release appears to have very padded expenses for curriculum development and other expenses.

Virtual schools provide all or most of their instruction on-line, so their actual costs are much lower than regular public schools or community charter schools which must have buildings and on-site teachers and support staff. Why do we care what it costs to run a “virtual” school? Payments to charter schools in Oregon are based on a formula which in turn is based on the assumption that the school is a “bricks and mortar” facility. The actual costs of operation are not considered. If a for-profit management company can lower its costs of operation drastically, say by doing all teaching over the internet and requiring very large student “class” sizes, that management company gets to pocket the difference.

The two companies I refer to are growing about 35% a year. The projected enrollment for next year is 5,000 students. This would cost the state about $50 million. They can take large numbers of your tax dollars home to pay CEO salaries and stockholder dividends in Maryland and Virginia while we are laying off teachers and have kindergarten classes in the thirties in some districts.

HB 2301 allowed this huge growth in for-profit virtual schools to spread to Oregon. The bill nearly failed because many legislators, including me, thought the practice of shipping your tax dollars out of state for very large profits was a poor use of your money. Unfortunately, the bill ultimately passed without meaningful restrictions to rein in these companies.

We already have on-line classes for those who need them through regular public schools and Education Service Districts. When a school district or ESD runs an on-line class it only spends what the class actually costs and makes sure students get the direct contact with teachers and other students they need.  No additional money is siphoned off. Any funds “left over” are used to help with other parts of that student or other students’ education in the district.  If you have a child who might benefit from an on-line class, check in with your school district.  Find out what classes are available without sending our precious dollars out of state.

Many parts of the “education package” you have been reading about in the daily newspapers are good and useful. HB 2301 is an out of control nightmare with unacceptable drop-out rates and huge profits for national corporations whose primary interest must be the bottom line, not our kids. Unfortunately, reining in this growing problem will have to await future sessions. Stay tuned.


Continue to contact me with your ideas and concerns. The February 2012 Session is just around the corner.

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