Bill a boon for schools

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board June 24, 2011 04:40 pm

We had begun to wonder whether the Oregon Legislature would get around to doing something about a matter vital to the future of Baker County schools.

It was belated action, but this week it finally happened.

The legislation is Senate Bill 250, and it will soon become law.

The bill allows school districts to provide their own special education and other services rather than pay the local Education Service District to do the work.

The Baker School District has done precisely that, a process known as “opt out,” for the past 13 years.

Bypassing the ESD saves the district about $200,000 per year. That’s a significant amount —more so given that the district will have to lay off several teachers next fall to balance its budget.

Without SB 250, though, there was no guarantee that Baker would be able to continue opting out of services through the newly created InterMountain ESD.

SB 250 was introduced back on Jan. 10 and, despite a series of work sessions since, the bill languished through the rest of the winter and spring.

On Monday the Senate passed the bill by a 38-21 vote (Ted Ferrioli, the John Day Republican who represents Baker County, voted yes).

The next day the House approved the bill 18-11 (Baker County’s representative, Republican Cliff Bentz of Ontario, voted yes).

Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will sign the bill.

That’s beneficial not only to the Baker School District, but also to the Pine-Eagle School District in Halfway, and Burnt River Schools in Unity.

Those districts, along with the Powder Valley District in North Powder, joined with Baker three years ago to create the “South Consortium”—a sort of opt-out club, as it were.

Considering the financial straits that school districts across the state are in, we figured SB 250, as a proven cost-cutting concept, would sail through Salem.

The trip turned out to be a bit bumpier, and slower, than we expected. But we’re pleased it’s finally over.