By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
As Oregon students return to the classrooms, watch out for a new fad that could make our state’s academic performance even worse.
That fad is known as the “four day school week.”
Oregon is one of only nine states that allows four day school weeks and more than 130 districts operate on a four-day schedule. Post-pandemic that number is sure to climb.
Many teachers and administrators like that it provides for a three day weekend every week.
Proponents push the four day week as a way to cut costs without harming academics. But this claim is only half true.
Moving to a four day school week does cut costs. But, it also cuts total instructional time.
Recent research on Oregon’s experience with the four day week finds that schools that moved to a four day week experience significant declines in reading and math achievement. Moreover, these declines worsen over time.
Everyone’s heard the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” The same goes for Oregon’s faddish adoption of the four day school week. It’s claims simply aren’t true.
Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
Raising prevailing wages would burden taxpayers and marginalize minorities
By Vlad Yurlov
Bad legislation often hides in “tweaks” and what sponsors call “housekeeping” measures. Oregon House Bill 2419 and Senate Bill 493 are two examples. With just a few words, the bills tweak Oregon’s formula for calculating prevailing wages throughout the state. Their results would increase costs for nearly every public works project in the state with no end in sight.
The prevailing wage is the rate of pay and benefits that contractors and vendors must offer their employees when a government agency funds the project. Currently, Oregon’s prevailing wages are based on an independent wage survey conducted by the state’s labor commissioner.
HB 2419 and SB 493 propose a radical departure from current policy. Every region’s prevailing wage will be based on the highest wage rate among collective bargaining agreements in the region. In other words, every contractor would have to pay the same wages as the highest collective bargaining agreement in each region.
The State of Washington adopted a similar approach in 2018. As a result, ECONorthwest reports the average prevailing wage shot up nearly 18% for work on affordable housing. In 2019, the Association of Washington Housing Authorities confirmed that, “As a result of this legislation, prevailing wages for residential trades saw dramatic increases that have put in peril some affordable housing projects and weatherization programs.”
The Business Institute of Washington reports “significant rate increases,” with wages doubling and tripling in some areas. That’s exactly how infrastructure spending will be bloated in Oregon. Shortly after Washington’s switch to the highest contract in the area, one contract representing less than 13% of the total operator hours in an area prevailed over the other 87%. The government affairs director of Associated General Contractors explained that placing one union contract over every public works project “makes the concept of ‘prevailing’ wage nonsensical,” because the word prevailing implies some sort of prevalence.
Proponents claim prevailing wage laws don’t significantly increase the cost of public works, and if they do, the quality of the projects increases along with the price. In contrast, cities such as Portland exempt some affordable housing from prevailing wages because the increased costs reduce the amount of affordable housing they can build with their limited budgets. Willamette Week reports that Martha McLennan, executive director of Northwest Housing Alternatives estimates “the prevailing wage requirement can add $25,000 per unit in costs.”
Regardless of the claimed increase in quality, the higher costs mean fewer units can be built. For example, prevailing wages almost cost Portland 189 affordable housing units in 2018. REACH Community Development couldn’t afford to build the apartments under prevailing wages and had to work with the City of Portland to find exemptions. If Oregon’s Legislature switches to using the highest collective bargaining agreements to determine wages, a recently-completed affordable housing project would have cost about 10% more to build, according to ECONorthwest.
HB 2419 and SB 493 will affect more than just construction costs. The young, inexperienced, and minority workforce may have difficulty finding a job at the higher wage rates, because they have the least experience. Portland State University surveyed 177 Oregon apprentices and found that only 44% of women of color had prior experience with the trades compared to 71% of white men. In addition, apprentices of color don’t receive as much informal mentorship as white men. When times get tough, contractors tend to lay off the most inexperienced workers first. One result is that black people are often the first to be fired.
A memo from Portland’s Clean Energy Fund staff highlights these concerns, concluding“there remain many unknowns around…the demographics of contractors with the capacity to administer a [prevailing wage rate] project.…” They asked themselves, “By requiring [prevailing wage rates], are we handicapping or locking out smaller, diverse contractors from participating and growing in PCEF?”
If Oregon forces all contractors to pay the highest union contract in each region, public works expenses will spike, and many people seeking to enter the trades would be denied a fair chance to compete. In contrast, labor unions could pocket taxpayer money by signing ever-higher contracts that entire regions have to bear. Oregon’s legislators should vote no on House Bill 2419 and Senate Bill 493.
Vlad Yurlov is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
Subjective rules reduce the supply of housing
By Vlad Yurlov
Portland City Council is focusing on making it easier to build outdoor homeless shelters. This raises the question: Why not set permanent housing free?
Adopting Portland’s Shelter to Housing Continuum Project would remove design review requirements from outdoor shelters. Design review is the process by which bureaucrats and the public can weigh-in on and change the way a building looks. The process can take months and bales of money. In many cases, design review results in radical changes to a building’s size, look, and amenities. Decisions are based on an unelected commission’s subjective ideas of what makes a “livable” development. Portland’s recent effort to relax rules suggests the city has come to terms with the fact that design review can stand in the way of affordable housing production.
Since 2015, Portland’s housing emergency declarations called for serious cuts to rules that decrease the supply of housing by increasing the cost of development. Design review does both, by making developers jump through hoops in the dark, which deters many from trying to build in the first place. Historic review presents very similar challenges in older neighborhoods. Rules, restrictions, and subjective reviews create uncertainty for developers. In Portland, the processes are usually between 42 and 90 days. During design review, developers rack up fees, cover staff expenses, and lose valuable time that could have been spent building.
Take the case of Landon Crowell. Crowell wanted to build a 26-unit apartment in 2016. The first design review pushed the developer to cut ground floor parking and the sixth story, leaving just 18 units. Afterwards, the Design Commission agreed that the project was consistent with the Portland Zoning Code. Nonetheless, subjective requirements were enough to deny over 18 months of work and $160,000 in fees—that’s $9,400 per unit. Crowell appealed to Portland City Council, which overruled the Design Commission in 2017. As more projects face similar design reviews, Portland State University’s Real Estate Quarterly Report proposed that the City of Portland may have placed an “unintentional governor on construction.”
Supporters of design review say loosening the process would also reduce livability, but they miss or ignore the costs of regulation. Meyer Memorial Trust explored the issues associated with affordable housing construction and concluded, “…neighborhood pressure and a general bias against affordable housing sometimes lead to affordable projects being held to a higher (and more expensive) standard….” After studying over 100 affordable housing projects in Oregon, Blue Sky Consulting Group confirmed that “…projects with more community opposition (measured by the number of community meetings) are associated with higher costs.”
A spokesman for the bureau behind Portland’s design review process stated, “during an emergency, such processes may need to be evaluated as to whether the value they add is comparable to the needs of the time.” And the needs of the time are only increasing. Portland staff say the city needs “…a minimum of 23,000 additional housing units to serve low and moderate-income households.” In addition, Portland Business Alliance reports that the “pipeline” of apartment construction was cut in half between 2019 and 2020. Under tighter budgets and the same old rules, many developers aren’t willing to risk building residential construction.
As Portland City Council inches closer to removing design review from outdoor homeless shelters, it should address the root of the housing crisis. Design review promotes the delays, expenses, and uncertainty that push investment away from permanent housing. By unclogging the housing pipeline, high rents will finally be able to spur go-getters into building new housing. Developers shouldn’t have to hope their projects meet some bureaucrat’s blurry definitions.
While shelters are temporary and can be intrusive, expediting residential projects is a long-term solution to the rising rents which push people into homeless shelters in the first place. Portland City Council should hold up the “housing” portion of the Shelter to Housing Continuum and remove design review for all residential projects.
Vlad Yurlov is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
By Helen Doran
Every student deserves access to a quality education. Despite the setbacks caused by closing public school buildings, many Oregon students were already struggling to succeed in the public school system before the pandemic. According to the National Association of Education Progress, only 34% of Oregon fourth-graders tested “proficient” in reading in 2019. Moreover, Oregon continues to have one of the lowest graduation rates in the nation.
Now, more than ever, students and families are demanding greater access to a quality education that fits their unique needs. A proven way of providing that access is by giving families control over their students’ portion of the state’s education funding.
Currently, more than half the states in the U.S. give families flexibility to direct their children’s education through scholarships, tax credits, and Education Savings Accounts.
Oregon is one of 29 states to have introduced legislation this year to fund students directly. Senate Bill 658 would establish an Education Savings Account (ESA) program for Oregon parents who want to opt out of their government-assigned public schools for other options, such as private school or homeschool. The program “allows participating students to obtain grants from education savings accounts to fund attendance at specified types of schools or education programs.”
Not every child is going to thrive in the public school system. It’s time for Oregon to provide equal opportunities for a quality education by funding students, not systems, through such legislation as SB 658.
Helen Doran is a Program Assistant, External Affairs at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
By John A. Charles, Jr.
Last November, Oregon voters approved three ballot measures related to drug use. While all three passed by large margins, the policies themselves are contradictory.
The purpose of Measure 110 was to make health assessment and recovery services for drug addiction widely available, and to adopt a health approach to addiction by removing criminal penalties for low-level drug possession. The measure reclassified possession of heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, psilocybin, and other drugs from misdemeanors to Class E violations for both adults and juveniles.
Technically, the law decriminalizes drug possession but does not legalize it. However, since the maximum punishment for possession is now a $100 fine or completion of a health assessment by an addiction professional, that may be a meaningless distinction. Measure 110 passed by a 58%-42% margin, and made Oregon the first state to decriminalize drug possession.
Measure 109 legalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the psychoactive component of some mushrooms. Through licensed service centers, Oregon adults will be able to use the drug in a controlled way sometime after January 2023. This law passed by a 56%-44% margin, and made Oregon the first state to legalize psilocybin for medicinal purposes.
Measure 108 moves in the opposite policy direction by attempting to outlaw the legal consumption of tobacco products. It does this through taxation rather than regulation. This law increased the state cigarette tax from $1.33/pack to $3.33/pack, doubled the cigar tax to $1 dollar, and created a new tax on e-cigarettes. Measure 108 passed by a 66%-34% margin, making Oregon one of the most expensive states for tobacco sales.
The three new drug laws differ not only in policy goals, but in financial impacts. Measure 109 is the only one that is revenue-neutral. It imposes a 15% tax on the retail sales of psilocybin, with the funding used to pay for program administration. The modest tax rate is not designed to discourage consumption, nor does the resulting revenue benefit non-users.
Measure 110 takes a very different approach. This law imposes no sales tax, because drug sales remain illegal. Instead, it diverts more than two-thirds of the money generated by the 2014 marijuana legalization law, to pay for at least 16 new Addiction Recovery Centers (ARCs) across the state. These centers must be open 24 hours per day, 365 days of the year. The centers must assess the acute needs of persons who use drugs, provide connections to other services, and offer peer support, at no charge.
Marijuana taxes brought in $133 million to the state for Fiscal Year 2020, and that number is growing rapidly. Most of the money now goes to public schools, state police, and local governments. Under Measure 110, those entities will be capped at $45 million annually; the rest of the money will be spent to operate the new ARCs.
The structure of Measure 108 doesn’t even try to ensure equity between who pays and who benefits. The new tobacco taxes will be used primarily to prop up the ballooning costs of Oregon’s Medicaid program, which pays for hundreds of services unrelated to tobacco.
In assessing the three new drug laws, Measure 109 took the clearest step forward for personal freedom by legalizing psilocybin and avoiding punitive taxes. It was a well-crafted measure designed to achieve one narrow objective, and it succeeded.
Measure 110 decriminalized drug possession, but did not legalize it. Decriminalization is a worthy accomplishment that will reduce much of the destructive policing associated with the Drug War; however, the money grab from cannabis buyers was gratuitous and is guaranteed to cause a legislative fight.
The tobacco tax was simply a power play by people pretending to care about public health. Considering that smokers tend to be disproportionately poor and non-white, passage of Measure 108 was a big step backwards for personal freedom, tax fairness, and racial justice.
Since 2014, Oregon legislators have largely viewed drug policy as a spectator sport. As a result, we have conflicting drug laws, with goals ranging from Libertarian to Victorian. Legislators should address these conflicts themselves, rather than waiting for the next ballot measure.
John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. A version of this article originally appeared in The Portland Tribune on March 19, 2021.
By Vlad Yurlov
It’s a bad sign when businesses need to fortify their storefronts to survive. But after the pandemic and lockdowns shuttered many Portland businesses, spiraling crime rates added to the damage. The Portland Police Bureau reports burglary and vandalism are up 35% over the past year. Reported arsons doubled.
Eager to re-open, many businesses are trying to beef up security by installing gates and more lighting. But Portland’s lengthy and costly design review process has stood in the way. In response, the city council exempted lighting and security gates from design review to help what they call the “green shoots” of our economy.
It’s encouraging to see the City of Portland recognize some of the harmful effects of design review laws. City council should treat its recent decision to relax rules as the first step toward removing all of its design review requirements. So often, the best way for government to allow green shoots to blossom into gardens is to simply get out of the way.
Vlad Yurlov is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.
The Portland metro region tried everything to reduce automobile reliance. It’s time to acknowledge the resulting congestion.
By Vlad Yurlov
Oregon’s transportation policy is in an alternate reality, the “no build” alternative, to be exact. It’s been more than 30 years since Oregon built a new highway, and its metropolitan areas are pressured to say “no” to parking lots and any new automobile capacity. So it’s no wonder that the Oregon Department of Transportation reports “congestion is expected to become more severe and spread beyond typical peak periods in many areas of the state.”
We got here by way of a comprehensive law with a boring title. In 1991, Oregon adopted the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR), which requires most metropolitan areas to “reduce reliance on the automobile” by decreasing vehicle miles of travel (VMT) and parking spaces per capita. The TPR was born out of the death of a highway and grew to a sprawling behemoth that pressures local governments to disinvest from the automobile infrastructure that enabled the state’s growth throughout the early 20th Century.
In the late 1980s, state and local governments thought a Western Bypass could help commuters avoid Portland’s congested downtown streets. But environmentalists and others pointed to computer models to claim “transportation demand management (TDM) could reduce congestion without expanding roadway capacity. TDM strategies focus on increasing alternative transportation access by doing things like adding sidewalks and cycling lanes and then paying employees to use them. The computer models assumed local governments could increase livability by subsidizing high-density multimodal centers instead of additional road capacity. The decision to scrap the Western Bypass and follow the activists’ approach bled into the TPR. Instead of building bridges and highways, the Portland metro region tried its hand at “managing demand.”
The rebuilt Sellwood Bridge is an example of this approach backfiring. By 2004, the Sellwood Bridge was unable to keep up with traffic demands. Despite the fact that a two-lane bridge was projected to produce “grossly unacceptable” traffic congestion by 2015, Metro recommended no new crossings be constructed across the Willamette River. Instead, local governments focused on transportation demand management to address rising congestion on surrounding streets. Tacoma Street in Sellwood served four lanes of traffic into the east side of the bridge. But the City of Portland “managed demand” by cutting two lanes and calling it a Main Street instead of a vital arterial. The lost roadway and parking spaces became sidewalks and bike lanes. The speed limit was cut from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. This strategy scored points under the TPR, but congestion only got worse.
Cars piled up on Tacoma’s two-lane bottleneck and spilled out into the neighborhood. Public officials refused to acknowledge what the environmental impact statement for the Sellwood Bridge clearly found: walking and cycling facilities are “an addition to automobile traffic, not a substitute for it.” But Portland planners insisted that Tacoma Street didn’t have the responsibility of serving regional transportation needs, so two lanes were enough. In the end, limiting Tacoma Street to two auto lanes made it much easier for planners to stop a wider Sellwood Bridge replacement. After all, the Tacoma Street “road diet” was in both Metro’s and Portland’s plans to comply with the Transportation Planning Rule.
Proponents of the Transportation Planning Rule claim reducing vehicle miles of travel per capita is necessary to reduce pollution. But before the rule was adopted, Oregon’s air quality was already improving. And air quality continues to improve, because automobile fuel efficiency keeps increasing. Yet environmentalists demanded the TPR include VMT reduction targets to make sure local governments elsewhere in the state acted with as much zeal as the Portland metro region.
Despite the region’s effort at “demand management,” traffic congestion increased under TDM policies. As the population increased without adequate expansion of roadway capacity, the cost of using a car increased. And while some drivers may have switched to alternative transportation modes, the overall mode share hasn’t significantly shifted since 1990. Despite the Transportation Planning Rule’s promises of increased livability, the regions that implemented the rule most aggressively face some of the worst congestion. After three decades of misplaced priorities, it’s time to declare the Transportation Planning Rule a failure and repeal it.
Vlad Yurlov is a policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
Eric Fruits, Vice President of Research of Cascade Policy Institute, submitted testimony regarding SB 223
March 11, 2021
Senate Committee on Education
Oregon State Legislature
Re: Opposition to Senate Bill 223
Dear Chair Dembrow; Vice Chair Thomsen; Senators Gelser, Gorsek, and Robinson:
Oregon has a long and shameful history of hostility toward private schools. It began with the state’s Constitution which includes an anti-Catholic “Blaine Amendment” (Article I, section 5) providing that “[n]o money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religeous [sic], or theological institution.” It continued through a ballot measure—supported by the Ku Klux Klan and the Federation of Patriotic Societies and passed by voters in 1922—banning all private schools from Oregon. In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared the law unconstitutional holding, “The child is not the mere creature of the State.” Nevertheless, the hostility toward private education continues today with SB 223.
SB 223 IS UNNECESSARY
Only six states have laws regarding licensing of private schools. None of the testimony submitted at the time of this letter has indicated any compelling reason for Oregon to be the seventh. Nor has any testimony indicated that Oregon private schools are in need of registration.
ACCREDITATION IS AN EFFECTIVE SUBSTITUTE FOR REGISTRATION.
The Oregon Department of Education reports that a majority of Oregon’s private high schools go through the accreditation process and that most colleges and universities accept transcripts from high schools that are fully accredited. There has been no evidence submitted or testimony received indicating that an onerous registration bureaucracy is superior to the well known and widely accepted accreditation system already in place. Registration under SB 223 is duplicative, costly, and designed to stifle the entry and growth of private schools in Oregon.
REGISTRATION = LICENSE
Proponents of SB 223 characterize the bill as merely a “voluntary” system for registration. As the old saying goes, “If it walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.” SB 223 is not merely a registry in which a school submits a one-page form to be entered into some database. Instead, it establishes a lengthy registration process and a vast bureaucracy to administer it. For example, schools must satisfy criteria to be registered. Criteria include:
- Teacher “fitness” and “education and experience,”
- School facilities,
- Curricula, and
- Instruction time (“equivalent to the period of time required for students attending public school”).
SB 223 creates a seven member advisory committee to develop these criteria and any others. Bureaucrats in the Oregon Department of Education are to determine whether an applicant satisfies the registration criteria. A registration can be suspended or revoked by ODE.
SB 223 imposes stiff consequences for schools that opt-out of registration or lose their registration. The bill prohibits any public school district from being a member of any “voluntary organization” if that organization allows non-registered private schools to be members. Put bluntly, this is outrageous.
“Voluntary organizations” include the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) as well as many other school activities. In addition to sports, OSAA sanctioned activities also include band, orchestra, choir, solo music, and speech/debate. But, SB 223 is not just limited to OSAA. The bill covers all “voluntary organizations,” including well-known local, state, national, and international organizations, such as:
- We the People High School Constitutional Competition
- Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program
- National Honor Society
- Key Club
- High School Mock Trial Competition
- Portland Dragon Boat Festival
- Portland Rose Festival
- High School Fishing State Championship
- High School Chess Team Association
- Model United Nations
- Oregon Association of Student Councils
- National History Bee & Bowl
- Battle of the Books
- Red Cross
- Science Bowl
- Future Business Leaders of America
- Future Farmers of America
- International Thespian Society
This places “voluntary organizations” in an impossible position: Either exclude Oregon non-registered private schools or exclude Oregon public schools. For example, say an accredited private school and its students satisfy the requirements of the National Honor Society, but the school is not registered with the state under SB 223. The bill would prohibit any public school district (e.g., Corvallis School District, Reynolds School District, and Portland Public Schools) from having a National Honor Society chapter—unless NHS kicks out the non-registered private school. SB 223 effectively conscripts “voluntary organizations,” such as NHS, into enforcing the worst parts of the bill. Moreover, the heavy hammer of exclusion from extracurricular programs debunks the notion that registration is voluntary and that SB 223 is anything short of licensing.
SB 223 is silent on how the registration process would be funded. No one should be surprised if the Oregon Department of Education or its advisory committee come up with a schedule of steep fees to offset the substantial costs of implementing, monitoring, and enforcing the bill’s registration scheme. Just as the U.S. Supreme Court concludes “the power to tax involves the power to destroy,” the power to impose crushing fees is the power to destroy private schools in Oregon. SB 223 places no limits on that power.
THE QUESTIONABLE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF SB 223
The U.S. Supreme Court has established that states have the power to regulate private schools. This power is not without limitations, however. Because more than half of Oregon’s private schools are religiously affiliated, any regulation of these schools must conform to the U.S. and Oregon constitutions’ guarantees of the free exercise of religion.
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down excessive regulation that effectively eliminates a parent’s right to direct the education of their child. Expanding on this decision, the Ohio Supreme Court determined that the state’s “minimum standards” for non-public schools were “so pervasive and all-encompassing that total compliance with each and every standard by a non-public school would effectively eradicate the distinction between public and non-public education, and thereby deprive these appellants of their traditional interest as parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.”
SB 223’s registration criteria regarding teacher “fitness” and “education and experience,” school facilities, curricula, and instruction time seem to effectively eradicate the distinction between public and private education—rendering private schools and their students mere creatures of the state. If this bill become law, the state can expect a lengthy journey through the courts, ending in a scathing defeat for Oregon and this bill’s proponents.
Senators, do yourselves and your state a favor by rejecting SB 223. After more than 160 years, it is past time to end Oregon’s long and shameful history of hostility toward private schools.
Respectfully submitted by,
Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
 Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).
 EdChoice, School Choice: Regulations (2021), https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/regulations/, retrieved March 10, 2021.
 Oregon Department of Education, Private Schools General Information (n.d.), https://www.oregon.gov/ode/schools-and-districts/grants/ESEA/Pages/Private-Schools-Gen-Info.aspx, retrieved March 10, 2021: “[A] majority of Oregon’s private high schools choose to go through the accreditation process. Accreditation serves as a consumer protection purpose. It provides assurance that the school or program has been evaluated and has met accepted operational and program standards. Although there are no guarantees, most colleges and universities accept transcripts from high schools that are fully accredited.”
 SB 223, 10(e)(E): “Any district school board may … Authorize the school district to be a member of and pay fees, if any, to any voluntary organization that administers interscholastic activities or that facilitates the scheduling and programming of interscholastic activities only if the organization … Limits participation in interscholastic activities by private schools to private schools that are registered, as provided by sections 1 to 5 of this 2021 Act.” [emphasis added]
 McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819)
 Based on the “high responsibility for education of its citizens, [a state] may impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education.” Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213 (1972).
 Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923) (State law that prohibited the teaching of German to elementary school age children unreasonably interfered with the power of parents to control their children’s education). Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284, 298 (1927) (State law is unconstitutional that regulates the teachers, curriculum, and textbooks of private language schools and places control of the schools in public officers. “Enforcement of the Act … certainly it would deprive parents of fair opportunity to procure for their children instruction which they think important, and we cannot say is harmful.”)
 Ohio v. Whisner, 351 N.E.2d 750, 768 (1976).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2021
Cascade Policy Institute
4850 SW Scholls Ferry Rd., Ste. 103
Portland, OR 97213
Contact: Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
SB 223 Is an “All-Out Attack” on Private Schools
Cascade Policy Institute urges the Legislature to Reject SB 223
Portland, Ore. — Cascade Policy Institute submitted testimony strongly opposing Oregon Senate Bill 223, which would effectively force private schools to register with the state. The bill would ban from interscholastic activities any school that does not register.
Proponents of SB 223 characterize the bill as merely a “voluntary” scheme to register private schools. But, what the bill proposes is not merely a registry in which a school submits a one-page form to be entered into some database. Instead, SB 223 establishes a lengthy registration process and a vast bureaucracy to administer it. In other words, SB 223 is a licensing scheme in disguise.
Registration is not automatic. To register, private schools must satisfy the state’s requirements regarding teacher qualifications, school facilities, curricula, and instruction time—which must be “equivalent to the period of time required for students attending public school.” Bureaucrats at the Oregon Department of Education will decide whether to accept or reject an application to be registered. A registration can be suspended or revoked by ODE at any time. This is an attempt to erase any distinctions between public and private schools in curriculum, teachers, and instruction. This is nothing less than an all-out attack on private schools in Oregon.
While supporters of SB 223 say registration is voluntary, it is not. The bill imposes stiff consequences for schools that opt out of registration or lose their registration. The bill prohibits any public school district from being a member of any “voluntary organization” if that organization allows non-registered private schools to be members. This places “voluntary organizations” in an impossible position: Either exclude Oregon non-registered private schools or exclude Oregon public schools.
SB 223 would force sports leagues and other organizations—such as National Honor Society, the Oregon Association of Student Councils, and Future Farmers of America—to kick out non-registered private schools as the “price” of having chapters at Oregon public schools. SB 223 would make many private schools and their students outcasts in the world of interscholastic sports and every other activity, denying those students opportunities to participate with the rest of the community and damaging their college prospects.
SB 223 must be rejected. It is a mean-spirited attempt to force private schools to conform to public school standards or face steep social and financial consequences. It violates the rights of private schools and their students, as well as the rights of public school districts and the organizations that provide interscholastic activities to thousands of Oregon students.
Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s free-market public policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility, and economic opportunity. For more information, visit cascadepolicy.org.
By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
Last week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office reached a settlement with four hotels over price gouging during last year’s wildfires. The hotels have to pay more than $100,000 to the state. In addition, they have to reimburse more than a hundred families for their hotel costs.
Laws against price gouging are about as old as the price system itself. But these laws miss the entire point of the price system—to allocate resources. There are many ways to allocate resources, but nearly all of them are inferior to the price system. These hotels weren’t “gouging” they were working toward ensuring that their scarce resource—namely hotel rooms—were allocated to those who valued them most.
Without the higher prices how should the rooms have been allocated? First come, first served? Lottery? How are those methods any more fair than the price system? Short answer: They’re not.
After thousands of years of prices and thousands of years of anti-price gouging laws, you’d think we’d have finally realized they simply don’t work. Let’s get rid of these silly laws and let our attorney general work on prosecuting real criminals.
Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
By Rachel Dawson
Oregon has always been a national leader in providing clean energy to ratepayers due to our hydroelectric dominated energy portfolio. In 2018, around 54% of Oregon’s electricity use resource mix was zero-emitting.
The current renewable portfolio standard (RPS) does not reflect this reality.
Oregon’s RPS was established in 2007 and created a requirement for how much of our electricity must come from “renewable” sources. The target for 2020 was 20%, even though over half of the electricity Oregon consumes is renewable. In 2016 the RPS target was raised to 50% by 2040. Currently, only PGE, PacifiCorp, and EWEB are required to be compliant with the law.
Eligible resources for Oregon’s RPS include: wind, solar, wave, tidal and ocean thermal energy, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric built after January 1, 1995. Notably missing from this list are nuclear and legacy hydroelectric. Unlike intermittent solar and wind resources, nuclear and hydro are reliable and do not need to be curtailed or backed up by baseload power as solar and wind often are.
Senate Bill 540, sponsored by Senator Fred Girod, would change that. This bill specifies that all electricity generated by a hydroelectric facility, no matter the facility’s age, can be used to comply with the RPS. Oregon’s RPS needs to account for the region’s legacy hydroelectric resources and the deep decarbonization already in place in most rural areas in Oregon. Legislators should vote yes on SB 540.
Rachel Dawson is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.
By Vlad Yurlov and Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
A recent Oregonian/OregonLive editorial criticizes Metro’s lack of “vision” in implementing its homeless services measure (“Metro lacks vision for homeless services measure,” Feb. 21). In particular, the editorial questions what the measure will achieve or what “success” will look like. This should not be a surprise. Metro never had a vision for the measure.
Last February, Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick asked, “How will we measure success? What will the voters see that’s different today than it will be in five years?” No one answered her question then. The question remains unanswered today.
Here’s one measure of success: a significant reduction in the number of unsheltered homeless. For the community at large, the unsheltered population is their biggest concern. These are the people sleeping on the streets, in parks, in tents, in cars, or in abandoned buildings. While a majority of Portland-area voters have compassion for the homeless, they also want an end to overnight camping. Getting the unsheltered indoors will improve the quality of life for them and the community.
For more than two decades, a “Housing First” approach has been heralded as the best solution to homelessness. Housing First has two components: first provide permanent, affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness and then provide a wide-range of supportive services to help them maintain their housing. These services can include treatment for medical and health care issues as well as mental health and substance use.
But, Housing First projects take years to build, and construction costs per unit are more than double private sector costs. The “wrap-around” services are expensive and require individuals to have both the ability and intent to fully use them. Even worse, there is no evidence that the Housing First approach is effective at reducing the total number of unsheltered people in a community.
Oregonian/OregonLive’s in-depth research on homelessness, “No space anywhere” (Jan. 24, 2015), reported the region’s emphasis on a Housing First approach diverted money away from emergency shelter beds that provide immediate relief to unsheltered people. Local governments’ slow-motion construction of affordable housing units cannot satisfy existing demand, let alone keep up with future demand.
Metro owns and operates a resource that can quickly satisfy much of the demand for emergency shelter. The Portland Expo Center is a 330,000-square-foot exposition center sitting on 53 acres. The facility has meeting rooms, a full-service kitchen, a restaurant, and flexible outdoor exhibit space. In her State of the Region presentation, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson admits Metro’s property has “really struggled financially in this last decade.” The Expo Center has been losing money for years and needs significant capital upgrades to compete in the exposition market.
The exhibition space alone could serve 2,000 to 3,000 individuals. Its 2,500-vehicle parking lot provides ample space for individuals who prefer to camp or sleep in vehicles. It has easy access to public transit—the TriMet Yellow Line terminates at the front of the Expo Center and provides frequent service to downtown Portland.
Ms. Peterson questioned whether the Expo Center’s current operations are the “highest and best use” for the facility. Looking toward future uses of the site she indicated, “That vision might include the kinds of shows that already take place there. Or, it might be something completely different. And I think we just want to leave it open for now to invite innovation and ingenuity around this space.”
Because the pandemic effectively closed the Expo Center, Metro can reallocate money from its homeless services measure to rapidly reopen the Expo Center as an emergency homeless shelter. Repurposing the existing facility would be much less expensive than the region’s current “affordable housing” construction projects. This is a better use of funds than Metro’s visionless, complex, and time-wasting process of filtering funds through counties down to service providers.
Converting the Expo Center could bring immediate relief to thousands of homeless individuals and families while providing a much better return on investment than current plans to remodel the site for low-attendance expositions. Rather than waiting for counties to brainstorm their own homeless services programs, Metro should flex its regional government muscles and put the Expo Center to work.
Vlad Yurlov is a Policy Analyst and Eric Fruits is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.