Three counties won't get pilot project status for early learning hub

By Chris Collins November 13, 2013 09:43 am

By Chris Collins

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Baker, Wallowa and Malheur counties were unsuccessful in their attempt to be chosen as one of the state’s first early learning hubs in a one-year pilot project.

Oregon’s 17-member Early Learning Council met Tuesday at Portland State University to consider applications from community partnerships around the state. The council voted to accept Marion County’s application unconditionally. Five others also were chosen pending further contract negotiations.

The pending applications came from Harney and Grant Counties’ Frontier Oregon, Multnomah County, Douglas and Lake Counties’ South Central Oregon, Yamhill, and United Way of Lane County.

Baker School District Superintendent Walt Wegener expressed disappointment this morning.

The Baker School District had hoped to lead the way in establishing early learning hubs around the state based on the Partnership II program that has been in place in the district for a number of years. Partnership II is a collaborative working agreement between schools, social service agencies and medical providers to serve at-risk children and families.

“We thought it was scalable as a regional and state model,” Wegener said. “We’ve been working on this for a long, long time.”

The collaborative effort has proven to be a cost-saving system of providing family services in a more efficient and effective way, he added.

Because the application was not chosen, the three county partners will have to wait to see what is developed by others, Wegener said. 

The pilot programs are scheduled to begin in January and report to the Legislature by November 2014 for consideration during the next regular session. Eventually, plans call for establishing 16 hubs throughout Oregon.

The Eastern Oregon Community Based Services hub application was not without controversy. Members of the Baker County Republican Central Committee have called on Baker County commissioners to withdraw their support of the plan because, they say, it smacks of Socialism.

Commissioner Mark Bennett said today that he’s not overly concerned that the application was not successful.

“This will give us more time to check it out and to ensure that our community values aren’t being shortchanged by participating in the program,” he said.