Republican proposal to reinstate Oregon’s Promise scholarship for college students gets full vote of Education Committee

Bill to renew scholarship funding comes after Rep. Owens and Rep. Bonham’s request that Governor Brown fulfill the program’s funding for kids and families

SALEM, Ore. – In 2020, students who relied on the Oregon Promise Scholarship to pay for college lost out on these critical funds due to budget cuts. Now an amendment from Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) would restore the promise of scholarship funding if the student requests it under certain guidelines.

The amendment follows a letter sent from Rep. Owens, Representative Daniel Bonham (R-Dalles) and Senator Lynn P. Findley (R-Vale) to the Governor, asking that Oregon keep the promise made to these kids and families by reinstating the scholarship.

In 2020, more than 2,000 students made plans based on this funding. 1,400 were listed as pending, while 1,070 were awarded the scholarship only to have it revoked. A -5 amendment would establish a special eligibility window for the 2,470 total students.

“Oregon made a promise to these students when we told them they could attend college with support,” said Rep. Owens. “When this promise was broken in 2020, it dashed the dreams of these families who were depending on the scholarship to give their child new opportunities. I’m committed to making this right, and this amendment keeps the promise we made.”

“I’m pleased that we are able to reinstate this program for young students aspiring to earn their college degree,” said Rep. Bonham. “In the summer, we called on the Governor to make good on the commitment made with the Oregon Promise Scholarship because we knew how much it meant to the families that were counting on it.”

HB 2093-5 was passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Education with bipartisan support. It now heads to Ways and Means.

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Only two House bills in the Oregon Legislature would address COVID-19’s impact on education

OREGON HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS
For Immediate Release
Date: April 2, 2021
Contact: Andrew Fromm
Email: andrew.fromm@oregonlegislature.gov

Of more than 100 bills in the House Committee on Education, legislation from Rep. Owens and Rep. Alonso León is one of only two bills related to COVID-19’s negative impact on K-12 education

SALEM, Ore. – Despite the enormous disruption COVID-19 has had on Oregon’s education system, only two bills in the House Committee on Education address the negative effects of COVID-19 on students.

Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) and Representative Teresa Alonso León (D- Woodburn) are chief sponsors of HB 2962, which would direct a formal evaluation of students’ education needs resulting from COVID-19 closures, a step towards identifying how students can recover from gaps in learning.

“It is critical we identify and address the serious gap in education our students have experienced during the last 12 months because of COVID-19 and government-mandated stay-at-home orders,” said Rep. Owens, who also serves as a member of the Crane School Board. “There is much more we should be doing as lawmakers to address this critical issue for Oregon students, and it is great to see the bipartisan support for this proposal that will hopefully lead to others.”

“We should not be hiding from the truth that virtual learning has seriously harmed our kids’ educational development,” added House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby.) “After Oregon’s education officials announced plans to abandon standardized testing that would measure learning gaps, we need proposals like this more than ever.”

Negative academic effects from distance learning still have not been adequately measured in Oregon, and plans to do so have been delayed.

Even 2020 high school graduation rates are misleading since the Oregon Department of Education drastically altered its graduation standards. As recently as 2017, Oregon had the second-worst graduation rate in the country. The full impact of virtual learning on graduation rates is still not clear.

Miguel Cardona, the Secretary of Education selected by President Joe Biden, affirmed the need for evaluations nationwide when saying that student data obtained from standardized tests is important to help education officials create policy and target resources where they are most needed. “We have to make sure we laser-focused on addressing inequities that have existed for years. … Every bit of data helps,” added Cardona during a legislative conference.

Oregon remains the second to last state for reopened schools according to a tracker from Burbio, a website that aggregates school government, library and community event information and consists of more than 80,000 K-12 school calendars from all fifty states.

Numerous studies have been conducted which indicate a correlation between native mental health impacts for children due to closed schools:

“Beginning in April 2020 the proportion of children’s mental health-related ED visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 years increased 24 percent and 31 percent respectively.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 13, 2020.

Additionally, most states in the country have been reopening after a variety of studies point to safe conditions that would allow willing students to attend school in-person with minimal COVID-19 risks:

The CDC guidance, under President Biden, recommends that schools can reopen with successfully implemented mitigation strategies.

“Our data indicate that schools can reopen safely if they develop and adhere to specific SARS-CoV-2 prevention policies.” – American Academy of Pediatrics, January 6, 2021.

“…we see no indication that in-person school reopenings have increased COVID-19 hospitalizations in the counties below 36-44 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 per week. Neither the levels nor the trends change in any direction when schools open in [counties below 36-44 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 per week], even as far as 6 weeks after schools reopened. In fact, we often see precise estimates suggesting declines in hospitalizations in these low-baseline COVID-19 counties…” – National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), Tulane University, January 4, 2021.

HB 3350 is a second bill that addresses COVID-19’s impact on education.

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Oregon State Representative Mark Owens
House District 60

Rep. Mark Owens’ Statement on Governor Brown’s Statewide Two-Week Freeze

CRANE—Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) issued the following statement in response to Governor Brown’s Two-Week Freeze:

“Governor Brown’s one-size-fits-all approach to shutting down our state is far too extreme. Our eastern and rural Oregon communities in House District 60 will suffer to the point of no return. I am fully committed to stopping the spread of COVID-19, but these extreme regulations do not match the metrics.

Once again, our local elected leaders, public health authorities and businesses were not invited to the table to have a conversation about COVID-19 in our communities. Furthermore, evidence is lacking to support the arbitrary, targeted closures and restricted activities of certain businesses over others. Our businesses across Oregon will not survive another shutdown and thousands of Oregonians will lose their jobs, again, right before the holidays.

The secondary impacts of preventing the spread of COVID are significant and cannot be ignored; we’ve seen a devastating increase in suicide especially among youth and young adults, drug and alcohol use, and domestic and sexual violence. Our elderly family members have gone months without visitors or family and are dying alone.

I implore the Governor to reconsider this one-size-fits-all freeze, and speak with our businesses, local leaders and authorities to find a different path forward before it is too late for our families, communities, and our state.”

Rep. Owens also referenced agreement with a statement made by Jason Brandt, President & CEO for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), in a letter to Governor Brown:

“Businesses throughout Oregon have proven that they can make the operational changes necessary to keep their employees and their customers safe, even during this unprecedented pandemic. What we need now is a plan to address the root of the problem without causing additional harm to Oregonians throughout the state,” said Brandt.

ORLA’s statement can be read here: https://www.oregonrla.org/blog/indoor-and-outdoor-dining-shutdown-will-permanently-close-restaurants.

Rep. Owens Calls on Budget Committee to Leave Warner Creek Correctional Facility Open

Oregon State Representative Mark Owens
House District 60

Rep. Owens Calls on Budget Committee to Leave Warner Creek Correctional Facility Open

SALEM—Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) called on the Joint Ways & Means legislative committee to find another way to balance than budget in the public safety sector, instead of closing the Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lakeview.  The various Ways & Means subcommittees will be meeting this week via video conference to discuss budget cuts and filling Oregon’s budget deficit.

Rep. Owens said, “This facility is critical to the survival of the town of Lakeview and the surrounding areas.  Closing it would mean the loss of over one hundred local family-wage jobs.  Make no mistake, Lake County cannot sustain this type of a  hit, especially during some of the worst economic times our communities have seen in decades.”

“It is also my understanding there is not enough capacity in Oregon’s other prisons to transition the almost 500 inmates to other locations.  Warner Creek is one of the newest prisons in Oregon—it would be a shame to close a newer facility in favor of keeping older ones open that are more expensive to operate.”

“I urge the Committee to reconsider this closure, and to find the necessary budgetary reductions elsewhere,” added Rep. Owens.

House District 60 encompasses parts of Lake County, as well as all of Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur Counties.

Public comment regarding the proposed closure of the Warner Creek facility can be submitted through the Joint Ways & Means Public Safety Subcommittee at: jwmps.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov.

Rural Legislators Call on Legislature to Protect Schools & Businesses from COVID Lawsuits

SALEM—As Legislators meet this week in Salem for a special session, Senator Lynn Findley (R-Vale) and Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) are urging Oregon’s legislative leadership to protect Oregon schools, public entities, medical professionals, and private businesses from COVID-related lawsuits.

Perhaps the biggest glaring issue Oregon faces as the fallout of the Coronavirus epidemic continues came with an announcement from PACE insurance, which covers a majority of school districts in the state, that they will no longer provide liability insurance for Oregon schools against lawsuits related to COVID as of June 30th.

This means any student, staff member, parent, or private citizen who contracts COVID on school property or at a school event would be able to sue the school district. Without liability insurance to cover schools, many have said they will not be able to reopen because it would leave them exposed to frivolous and opportunistic lawsuits which could bankrupt or financially cripple our schools for years to come.

“We still have the opportunity to address the liability for schools. This needs to happen. It is not too late,” said Rep. Owens, who also is School Board Chair of Crane School District. “We are already in Salem for the special session, which was designed to fix urgent problems of this nature.”
Sen. Findley added, “This should be the top priority during this special session. Now is the time. Schools, students, and staff need the reassurance that they are covered from liability in order to reopen.”

Several groups have suggested that Oregon institute a “Good Neighbor Policy” for public and private entities, meaning if the rules and regulations set forth by the state are being followed by the entity and people get sick, those individuals cannot sue the school/business. Eight states have passed similar legislation.

Senator Findley and Rep. Owens encourage everyone concerned with the liability insurance issue to contact the legislative leadership team to voice your concerns and ask them to include a “Good Neighbor Policy” in the legislation being considered during this special session.

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Let Them Play!

From the Offices of Senator Lynn Findley
& Representative Mark Owens

Honorable Governor Kate Brown
C/o: Nik Blosser
900 Court St. NE, Room 254
Salem, OR 97301

June 9, 2020

Honorable Gov. Brown,

We write to you today to voice the concerns of thousands of our constituents who have contacted us with overwhelming support for the “Let Them Play” initiative regarding Oregon’s high school sports and extracurricular activities.

It is our understanding that the restrictions contained in the Phase 2 reopening guidelines prohibit any sport that involves participants coming into bodily contact. These restrictions seem onerous and inequitable, especially considering exemptions are being crafted for collegiate and professional sports teams. These rules should apply to all athletics equally or should not be applied at all. Of course, we are requesting you to consider the former of these circumstances and not the latter. The argument could also logically be made that the “contact” within these contact sports is not similar in any nature to the contact-distancing we are adhering to in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

In border towns like Ontario, teams are traveling across the state line to Idaho to hold practices, play games, and participate in tournaments.  If it is safe enough for Idaho athletes to participate in all sports, why is it somehow unsafe for those in Oregon, less than 10 minutes away?

We urge you to reconsider the restrictions on high school sports and activities.  These sports and activities allow for opportunities for personal growth, comradery, and positive effects on children’s physical and mental health.  This prohibition will negatively affect tens of thousands of Oregon’s youth at a time when their world has already been turned upside down. It may also place many students’ college scholarships in jeopardy and could result in missed opportunities and the dream of a college education out of reach for many.

Please reconsider these limitations.  We look forward to discussing this with you further.

Sincerely,


Senator Lynn Findley
Senate District 30

Representative Mark Owens
House District 60