A bill that would have provided a one-time grant for every community college in the state of Oregon to start on-campus childcare met its demise in the 2014 Feb.-March regular legislative session.
Written by State Representative Jason Conger, R-Bend, as well as campus staff and students, House Bill 4084 was killed Feb. 27 in the House committee of Ways and Means.
The bill had made significant progress, going through public hearings, work sessions, public referrals and a referral to the Ways and Means committee. Conger pushed the bill as a way to even out the transition to school for parents.
“House Bill 4084 will present an opportunity for community colleges to provide their students with an affordable and convenient childcare facility,” Conger said. “Students will be able to rest assured knowing that their children are being safely cared for close by.”
But while the bill was “referred to Ways and Means by prior reference” on Feb. 13, according to Oregon State Legislature, the bill made no progress from that point. For two weeks, the bill sat in Ways and Means without receiving any hearings.
“The bill is going to die,” Kurt Killinger, director of legislative affairs for the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College, said in the Feb. 25 ASCOCC meeting. “It’s not being rewritten, and it hasn’t been scheduled for Ways and Means.”
Killinger and Taran Smith, ASCOCC’s advisor, helped provide content for the bill, and their predictions were correct.
On Feb. 27, Conger attempted to pull the bill in order to save it on a day when many other Ways and Means State Reps were also attempting to pull bills. Conger presented his petition in the Ways and Means meeting, at about noon.
Conger’s motion to pull the bill failed. There were 29 ayes and 31 nays, negating the proposition and making further passage unlikely due to the time frame left for legislature.
The bill represented more than just a source of funding for community college services – it was also a way to encourage higher learning among Oregon parents with children, according to Conger.
“Although higher education is important, children are parent’s highest concern,” Conger said. “It is a tragedy that such an avoidable obstacle like a lack of sufficient childcare is the reason many students find themselves unable to attend college.”
While HB 4084 was a no-go, there are still options for community college childcare, according to Killinger. Killinger is now supporting the Employment Related Day Care program, an estimated $16.4-million-a-year program that provides approximately 20,000 low-income working Oregon families with funding for child care arrangements. The program has been running successfully for many years, and now it is time to “open that program up for students,” according to Killinger.
While the program would not provide on-campus childcare, it offers support for childcare for families with incomes of less than 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. This is another way to attract student interest and retain parents with children on Oregon community college campuses, according to Killinger.
“My guess is there will be a flood of students and it will be more indicative of the need,” Killinger said.
A solution to campus childcare issues – something HB 4084 tried to address – is a step in the right direction, according to Conger, especially if it shows community college parents that they are not on their own.
“The state of Oregon values students who want to work hard to complete their goals,” Conger said.