We're gratified that the Oregon Legislature finally recognizes that Education Service Districts, agencies ostensibly created to help public school students, are actually exacerbating school officials' struggles to balance their budgets.
It's too bad it took a $3.5 billion shortfall to highlight the problem.
Three of Baker County's four school districts have not only pleaded their case that ESDs are not necessary.
The districts have also proved their case beyond any doubt.
Three years ago the districts, along with North Powder in Union County, formed the "South Consortium."
Their strategy, sanctioned by the state but not officially enshrined in
state law, is to hire out special education, physical therapy and other
services. Most everywhere else in the state, ESDs do that work for
school districts. (Baker Schools actually opted out of the ESD mandate
a decade before the Consortium was formed.)
The South Consortium has highlighted the inherent inefficiency of
wedging an expensive layer of bureaucracy between the state and local
Membership in the South Consortium saves the Baker District about $200,000 per year.
That's the sort of statistic sure to interest lawmakers in these trying financial times.
The result is Senate Bill 250.
It would allow other districts to mimic the South Consortium districts
and procure special ed and other services on their own rather than
mandating that they work with the local ESD.
Officials from Baker, Pine-Eagle and Burnt River districts testified in favor of Senate Bill 250 last week in Salem.
We hope their endorsement persuades the Legislature to pass the bill.
It seems likely that Gov. John Kitzhaber would sign it into law.
The governor, after all, has been criticized by some for submitting a
budget proposal that in their estimation shortchanges schools.
A good answer for that criticism is to send more state money directly to schools.
It's a system that's worked out quite well around here for more than a dozen years.