Oregon House OKs easing foster, homeless HS grad requirements

Also votes to boost wage theft protections

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon House passed legislation Thursday that supporters said will help clear the way to high school graduation for vulnerable populations facing unique barriers — homeless and foster youth.

House Bill 3267 – which passed unanimously by the House – directs school districts and public charter schools to waive any graduation requirements not specified in Oregon statute for these students.

“We are not diminishing our standards for excellence, we’re simply eliminating moving targets for our students, and getting out of their way,” said Rep. Janelle S. Bynum (D-Happy Valley), the co-chief sponsor of the bill.

Currently, Oregon high school students must complete 24 credit hours, 18 of those in specific subject areas. Many school districts throughout Oregon, however, have additional requirements including higher credit hour totals, community service and special courses.

Under the legislation, school districts may continue to set distinct graduation standards, but must now grant a waiver for their students who fall under the foster or homeless classification.

During her speech on the House floor, Rep. Bynum explained, “Homeless and foster youth experience a myriad of barriers to school success, including high rates of ‘mobility’ or moving schools. When these students move to a new school, often multiple times in four years, many of the credits they’ve already earned do not transfer.”

The bill received broad bipartisan support, including from co-chief sponsor Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls). Rep. Vial brought personal experience to this issue, as someone who has cared for several foster children.

“As a foster and adoptive parent, I have seen first-hand the challenges that at-risk youth face as they work to achieve academic success,” Rep. Vial said. “I am excited about the positive impact this bill will have for foster, homeless, and runaway students moving forward.”

Chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard), said “this is one of the best bills we’ve had in the committee this session.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

In other action Thursday, the House voted to strengthen wage theft protections for working Oregonians.

Here's how the Oregon House Democrats' news release outlines that action:

House Bill 3008 prohibits employers from requiring employees to create, file or sign documents that contain information the employee knows to be false related to hours worked or compensation received.

Rep. Sheri Malstrom (D-Beaverton) was the chief sponsor of the legislation. She cited statistics showing that there were 883 wage claims worth $3.4 million filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries last year.

“Wage theft is a significant problem,” Rep. Malstrom said. “Workers in every industry experience wage theft, and all workers deserve the fair and equitable compensation for their labor.”

Existing protections against wage theft often depend on the employee being able to provide a timesheet as evidence. House Bill 3008 is intended to close this loophole by prohibiting an employer from coercing an employee to submit false records relating to their hours worked or compensation received.

House Bill 3008 joins other legislation championed this session by Oregon House Democrats intended to protect the rights of working Oregonians.

The bill passed the House with a 53-5 vote. It now moves to the Oregon Senate for consideration. 

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