Despite the pandemic and recession, Oregon’s public schools, universities and colleges have received substantial increases in funding. New legislation will grant more of our members access to healthcare, unemployment insurance, and debt-relief through the Public Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).
To learn more about this year’s session, please read the 2021 Legislative Report, prepared by our lobbyists. An excerpt is below.
It’s important to thank our Senators and Representatives for the work they did this session. Please send a personal note to your legislators thanking them for providing your school with funding, or for passing the adjunct faculty healthcare bill, or for any other bills that matter to you personally. Look up your representatives’ email addresses here. Be sure to let them know you are an AFT-Oregon union member!
AFT-Oregon Legislative Victories
Adjunct Faculty Health Care: SB 551
PASSED: OR Senate 20-9 | OR House 50-5
A historic legislative win over a decade in the making, SB 551 will ensure that AFT-Oregon adjunct faculty members have access to quality and affordable health insurance. With nearly $13 million allocated to the newly created Part- Time Faculty Insurance Fund established by SB 551, adjunct faculty who work at least half time will be provided the same employer offered health insurance available to their other faculty colleagues at the home institution selected by the adjunct faculty.
Student Loan Forgiveness Eligibility: HB 3255
PASSED: OR Senate 20-2 | OR House 52-6
Further addressing inequities for adjunct faculty, HB 3255 will require notification to all eligible education employees in Oregon about the Public Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) as well as direct institutions to credit adjunct faculty with 3.35 hours of credit for every one hour of instruction — a much needed policy to ensure adjunct faculty can participate in the PSLF program.
UI Clarity for Education Assistants: SB 495
PASSED: OR Senate 21-7 | OR House 40-17
The passage of SB 495 provides clarity for education assistants when trying to access UI benefits. By aligning statutory definitions of “instruction,” SB 495 removes confusion within the Oregon Employment Department and provides clarity about which employees a “reasonable assurance” test must be applied to.
Removing UI Barriers for Classified Staff: SB 496
PASSED: OR Senate 22-6 | OR House 46-9
With the enrollment of SB 496, the Legislature removed the unfair restriction on UI eligibility for school employees in Head Start programs and food service and ensured these employees will not face adjudication when trying to access UI benefits.
HECC Voting Rights: SB 712
PASSED: OR Senate 18-10 | OR House 50-10
AFT-Oregon’s HECC Voting Rights bill will extend voting rights to the existing Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) positions for students, faculty, and non-faculty higher education staff and creates one new position to extend much-needed representation to graduate students.
Progress in Education
When it comes to issues related to pre-K to 20 education, the Legislature spent this session debating bills and budgets aimed at providing quality, equitable education and child care access for all Oregonians. Some highlights of these efforts include, but are not limited to: expanded health care and unemployment insurance access for part-time faculty and classified staff; increased financial aid for students; the inclusion of class size as a mandatory aspect of collective bargaining; and the use of American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to increase access to child care throughout the state.
On top of the many policy efforts, the Legislature allocated over $3 billion to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (including $900 million for the Public University Support Fund and $703 million for the Community College Support Fund), just under $7 billion to the Oregon Department of Education, fully funding the Student Success Act and providing $9.3 billion to the State School Fund for the next biennium. Outstanding issues with the State School Fund are set to be addressed during the interim.