What did Oregon lawmakers do to help young people in 2024? Here are 9 education bills you’ll want to know about

By Natalie Pate (OPB) and Tiffany Camhi (OPB)
March 11, 2024 1 p.m. Updated: March 11, 2024 6:35 p.m.

From increased child care funding to protections for student-athletes and kiddos riding the bus, Oregon’s short legislative session ended last week with a mixed bag for the state’s youngest

Over the last five weeks, state lawmakers have been busy reviewing, amending, debating and passing various laws that will impact Oregonians of all ages. But a handful stand out as perhaps the most impactful or, at times, controversial efforts when it comes to the state’s younger residents.

The Legislature ended its 2024 short session Thursday night. Some bills made it to the finish line and will be implemented in schools soon, while others didn’t survive.


Some never saw the light of day. Take House Bill 4057. The Republican-led bill came just months after Portland’s first-ever teachers strike, which lasted nearly the entire month of November. The bill would have made it unlawful for teachers to participate in a strike, enacting a financial penalty if they did so. The bill was referred to a committee and was still there when the final gavel fell.

And some issues weren’t a key topic in the short session. School funding, for example, is a major issue across the state as districts big and small grapple with enrollment declines, the end of federal COVID-19 dollars, aging buildings, funding shortfalls, staff shortages and costly union contracts. However, conversations on how to fund Oregon schools will be much more prevalent in the Legislature during the 2025 session, because it will be the start of a new biennial budget.

Still, in a session noted for significant accomplishments in a short period of time, lawmakers managed to address a number of specific challenges facing families, teachers and the state’s emerging workforce.

Book ban bill dies last minute

A bill that garnered significant attention this session was introduced by Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland.

Senate Bill 1583 would have blocked school boards and other school officials from removing or refusing to offer library books or textbooks simply because they contain the perspective of, or are written by, members of protected classes such as people of color, LGBTQ+ people or religious minorities.

Frederick touted the bill as a simple and common-sense proposal that would build off existing rules against discrimination in Oregon schools. Parents would still have had a say in limiting what their own children have access to. But in a time when book bans are increasing nationally, the bill sparked hours of heated debate at the Capitol.

The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote but ended the session stuck in committee on the House side due to Republican delay tactics.

“Oregon’s House leadership … knowingly failed students, teachers and librarians in Oregon by ending the legislative session early and leaving SB 1583 on the floor before it could be passed by the House,” said Sandy Chung, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon.

“They sent the message that they were unwilling to do a few more days of work to make our public schools and libraries more inclusive, safe and enriching for students of all backgrounds and identities.”

Oregon gets more money for child care. Is it enough?

Oregon lawmakers made two major moves this session to invest more money into child care and help address the state’s ongoing care crisis.

The state passed $171 million for Oregon’s subsidized Employment Related Day Care as part of an omnibus spending bill. Advocates expect this to make a substantial impact on the thousands who rely on ERDC in order to work, go to school and pay their bills.

However, advocates were pushing for $221 million at the start of the short session in order to serve all the families on the ERDC waitlist that sprung up last fall.

FILE: Ioan McClain, 4, center, and Julian Orizola, 5, at Escuela Viva Community School’s Southeast Portland location, Oct. 26, 2023.

FILE: Ioan McClain, 4, center, and Julian Orizola, 5, at Escuela Viva Community School’s Southeast Portland location, Oct. 26, 2023.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Candice Vickers, the executive director of the economic justice nonprofit Family Forward, celebrated the spending as a win.

“It is heartening to see that Oregon lawmakers have heeded our calls and made a commitment to support and stabilize this critical program for the families who rely on it. We appreciate all the lawmakers who met with us, listened to us, and fought for kids and families in the budgeting process,” Vickers said in a statement Thursday.

“We have so much more work to do,” she added. “In the months and years ahead we will continue to fight for full funding for ERDC to protect the stability of the 16,000 families in the program, and end the waitlist that is holding back 1,900 families from participating.”

Advocates also applauded lawmakers for passing the CHIPS Child Care Fund via House Bill 4098. This will allow Oregon to build on existing state child care programs that could support businesses in unlocking federal funds through the CHIPS and Science Act, the 2022 federal law aimed at spending billions to boost computer chip production in the U.S.

$30 million headed to districts for summer school

Oregon school districts will get $30 million for summer programs this year following the passage of House Bill 4082.

That’s $30 million more than they got last year — when lawmakers failed to allocate any additional funding — but less than the $50 million the bill’s chief sponsor, state Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, wanted.

It’s also significantly less than the money allocated for summer learning in the years immediately following pandemic school closures.

Summer school funding was a funding priority of Gov. Tina Kotek from the start of the short session. She hoped lawmakers would approve the $50 million originally proposed, according to spokesperson Elisabeth Shepard as reported by the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Kotek welcomed the bill’s passage nevertheless.

“Thanks to this funding, students all across Oregon will have more time to learn this summer. I hope legislative leadership can allocate additional funds before the session concludes so more students can get what they need,” Kotek said in a recent news release.

The $30 million would be split among the state’s 197 school districts and 19 education service districts this summer, with priority going to Title I schools. The legislation requires districts to partner with tribes and community-based organizations.

A win for student safety with new school bus cameras

Lawmakers passed a bill that aims to better protect kids getting on and off the bus — or at least more effectively catch drivers who put them at risk.

House Bill 4147 authorizes stop-arm cameras on school buses to record people who don’t stop for bus safety lights. The bill allows law enforcement to potentially issue citations for failing to stop based on the photographs or videos.

Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, voiced her support for the bill earlier this session. In written testimony last month, she referenced a national 2023 survey saying that more than 62,000 vehicles unlawfully overtook school buses within the survey period.


Oregon-specific data, Neron added, showed bus drivers documented 1,427 stop-arm camera violations in a single day.

“I do not have any illusion that this will solve all safety concerns around people who ignore the stop sign and flashing lights when children are getting off their bus and crossing the street,” she wrote. But “hopefully this can keep our streets a bit safer and promote a culture of understanding of driver expectations.”

School board access and accountability

Do you know what your local school board is doing? That should get easier.

Under Senate Bill 1502, most Oregon school boards will have to livestream governing body meetings and post the recordings on their official websites or social media pages within seven days.

This applies to governing boards for K-12 schools, education service districts, community colleges and public universities. It does not make executive sessions public. Executive sessions are allowed to take place in private under Oregon law.

The new Senate bill takes into account possible technical limitations and internet issues, and it doesn’t apply to districts with fewer than 50 students.

Many districts — large and small — already do this, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. As Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, put it: Costs are minimal and the technology is widely available.

But sponsors of the bill — which included Wagner, alongside both Republican and Democratic lawmakers — said this will help ensure transparency and easier access, “regardless of work schedules, economic means, distance or disability.”

“What could be more important than including all voices in our democracy,” Wagner asked in his written testimony, “especially as it relates to our children and decisions that impact their education?”

Student-athletes and schools get more say in NIL deals

Oregon lawmakers are giving student-athletes at the state’s postsecondary schools additional protections when it comes to profiting off of their name, image and likeness or NIL. House Bill 4119 gives student-athletes and schools more authority on how they can broker these increasingly lucrative deals and essentially blocks any potential lawsuits regarding NIL agreements.

Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, was a supporter of the bill. On the Senate floor last week, Manning said the bill expands previous Oregon NIL laws outlining the rights of student-athletes to profit off of their sports.

“We’re trying to lay the groundwork so these student-athletes can benefit from some of their hard work,” said Manning. “Everybody will benefit from these bills.”

The bill also gives liability protections to schools and their staff from organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

These protections come as the NCAA is in the middle of changing its approach to governing these deals. The athletic conference has yet to issue final NIL rules.

Opponents of the bill were not convinced all student-athletes would benefit from the legislation nor would it fully protect students from exploitation.

Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, center, with Satou Sabally, left, and Ruthy Hebard, right, questions a call during the third quarter of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.

FILE: Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, center, with Satou Sabally, left, and Ruthy Hebard, right, during an NCAA game in 2020. All three players went on to play in the WNBA. A bill passed by the 2024 Oregon Legislature clarifies protections for student-athletes pursuing potentially lucrative name, image and likeness deals while they're still in college.

Chris Pietsch / AP

A push for semiconductor workforce training

The state made some big investments in Oregon’s semiconductor industry last year, including a $240 million infusion from the state Legislature. Now in the session that just concluded, lawmakers are taking the first steps toward making sure the workforce needed to support the state’s growing Silicon Forest will also be there.

House Bill 4154 creates the Semiconductor Talent Sustaining Fund, which would invest money to support existing chipmaking partnerships and develop new efforts between the manufacturing and technology industry and K-12 and higher education schools. The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission would be in charge of granting money from the fund to schools, tech companies and community-based organizations focused on developing the semiconductor workforce.

The bill originally asked for a total of $30 million, with half going to the new fund and half going to universities and community colleges with existing semiconductor workforce programs.

By the end of the session, the bill had no money attached to it. But the ask for schools was partially funded. About $10 million was set aside in the Legislature’s end-of-year spending bill for chip-making training programs. It will be shared among Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland State, and Mt. Hood and Portland community colleges.

Omnibus education bill sets up students, schools for success

Senate Bill 1552 includes a whopping 19 different directives related to both K-12 and higher education in Oregon. The omnibus education bill, sponsored by retiring Sen. Michael Dembrow, creates new programs, launches new studies and clarifies and makes corrections to existing education-related policies.

A top-line provision in the bill creates the Oregon Department of Education Youth Advisory Group. It will be made up of young people from across Oregon. The group is tasked with advising ODE on issues affecting youth in the state.

The bill also directs the legislative policy and research director to study and evaluate Oregon’s public education funding and spending. This directive comes after state lawmakers were accused of underfunding schools during the Portland teachers strike.

Wins on the higher education side include provisions to create a process to facilitate direct admissions for high school graduates into the state’s public universities and community colleges and the creation of a workgroup to study a statewide move from prerequisite developmental education to corequisite education.

Two higher ed bills that failed — one that moved, shrank but passed

Several higher education bills did not make it to the finish line this legislative session including legislation that would have addressed the rising cost of living for students in Oregon and expanded access to the Oregon Promise Grant. Another that helped grow the state’s behavioral health workforce shrank, but passed in the session’s final days.

House Bill 4162, also known as the Student Emergency Needs Package, asked for a total of $6 million to go toward students’ basic needs and textbook affordability programs. Last month, students and benefit navigators from universities and community colleges across the state testified for additional funding to make college more affordable.

Senate Bill 1551 would’ve allowed Oregon students who graduated from high school when the COVID pandemic was at its peak to apply for the Oregon Promise Grant. Oregon Promise is a financial aid program established in 2015 to dramatically reduce the cost of community college attendance. SB 1551 specified people who completed high school between March 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2022, would’ve been eligible. As it stands now, students must enroll in one of the state’s 17 community colleges within six months of graduating high school to be eligible.

Senate Bill 1592 looked to bolster behavioral health workforce training programs at five of Oregon’s public universities. A requested $6 million would have been distributed between Portland State, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and Western Oregon universities and the Oregon Institute of Technology. A version of this legislation — with a smaller $4 million ask for the five universities — was folded into the addiction funding bill House Bill 5204, which passed both the House and Senate. Much of the money is slated for scholarships and stipends designed to increase enrollment and retention in behavioral health programs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized what happened to the policies and spending called for in SB 1592. OPB regrets the error.