The State Higher Education Issues Committee meets bi-weekly to discuss political issues affecting the state. The SHEIC also makes recommendations for endorsements to the Executive Council. The Executive Council makes endorsements on behalf of the full membership of United Academics.
Candidates and issues endorsed by United Academics
Relating to public employee retirement.
Establishes retirement benefits payable under Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan to persons who establish membership in Public Employees Retirement System on or after effective date of Act. Provides that such persons do not become members of pension program of plan. Requires employers of such persons to make employer contributions to plan in amount equal to 10 percent of member’s salary. Allows person to contribute additional two percent of salary, which is matched by employer. Provides break in service and change in service rules for persons who established membership in system before effective date of Act. Requires employer contribution rate set by Public Employees Retirement Board to be at least 18 percent of salary. For years beginning in 2019, caps at $200,000 annual salary used to calculate final average salary for purposes of Tiers 1 and 2 of system. Directs Oregon Investment Council to offer high, medium and low risk options for investment of individual accounts established under system. Directs board to adopt rules allowing members to elect from risk options. Directs Public Employees Retirement Board to recalculate employer contribution rates to reflect savings attributable to Act. Provides for expedited review of Act by Supreme Court upon petition by adversely affected party. Declares emergency, effective on passage. Rationale: dangerous attack on PERS by effectively creating a new, lower tier without access to pension program.
Relating to public employee benefits.
Modifies funding mechanism for public employees’ health care benefit to avoid excise tax under Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Requires local governments and school districts to participate in modified health care benefit plan. Permits public employees to redirect funds from health care premiums to other benefits. Dedicates portion of health care benefit costs to future health care costs and to critical services. Requires Public Employees’ Benefit Board and Oregon Educators Benefit Board to assist employees in selecting benefit options. Excludes collective bargaining for specified health insurance benefits. Prohibits Public Employees’ Benefit Board and Oregon Educators Benefit Board from self-insuring. Establishes Task Force on Flexible Benefits for Public Employees to monitor implementation of new benefit plans. Sunsets task force December 31, 2022. Declares emergency, effective on passage. Rationale: this represents an attack on public employee benefits, specifically restricting the scope of collective bargaining related to some health insurance plans.
Relating to public employee retirement.
Provides that member of Public Employees Retirement System may not accrue pension benefits for future service. Requires member and employer to each contribute four percent of member’s salary to individual account program of Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan. Provides for direct review of provisions by Supreme Court. Rationale: this bill is another attack on PERS benefits.
Relating to setting the costs of attending public universities.
Requires governing board of each public university to establish Tuition Advisory Council to make recommendations regarding tuition and mandatory enrollment fees. Requires governing board to submit specified information and materials to Higher Education Coordinating Commission if board will increase tuition and mandatory enrollment fees by more than three percent, with additional information and materials required if board seeks to increase tuition and mandatory enrollment fees by more than five percent. Establishes criteria for commission approval of proposed increase in tuition and mandatory enrollment fees of more than five percent. Declares emergency, effective on passage. Rationale: this bill is championed by the Oregon Student Association, and they have asked for our support. The bill will not require HECC approval for tuition increases between 3-5 percent, but will require that universities document how they made the decision and that they considered the impact on students from traditionally underrepresented populations. Additionally, it sets up a Tuition Advisory Council at each university that will include two faculty members, two students from student government, and two students from underrepresented populations. Hopefully this will increase transparency in the tuition setting process and amplify the voice of faculty & students.
Proposing amendment to Oregon Constitution relating to obligation of state to ensure access to health care.
Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution establishing obligation of state to ensure every resident of state access to effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care. Rationale: this seems to align with our values.
Relating to education.
Expands 90-day grace period for employment to all licensees who are licensed by Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. Allows commission to adopt expedited process for issuance of licenses. Removes moot references to institutions of higher education in public charter school law. Consolidates reporting requirements for Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Clarifies school district obligations related to offering of half-day kindergarten. Provides that Network of Quality Teaching and Learning is established within Chief Education Office. Extends by two years sunset on provisions that allow individuals who are foreign exchange students and who are residing in Oregon in dormitory operated by school district to be considered residents of school district in which dormitory is located. Extends by three years time by which educator preparation programs must comply with certain national organization accreditation requirements. Provides that moneys in National Board Certification Fund may be distributed only to persons who are licensed by commission and who are employed with public educational program. Removes sunset on provision that virtual public charter schools may contract with for-profit entity to provide educational services if employee is administrator and meets other requirements. Requires Department of Education to reallocate funds, or to seek additional funds, if insufficient funds are available to reimburse school districts for lunches provided free of charge to certain students. Expands types of teaching and administrative licenses that may be held by persons participating in beginning teacher and administrator mentorship programs. Declares emergency, effective on passage. Rationale: this is an omnibus with quite a few clean ups. The most important to us is the section relating to reporting requirements for universities and community colleges (bold above & page 15-16 in the bill). This language clarifies the timelines and categories of employees to be reported and gives HECC somewhat broader ability to mandate what should be reported.
Relating to mandatory union payments for public employees.
Prohibits union security agreements between public employer and union.
Rationale: this is right-to-work for public employees, with the removal of the duty of fair representation for non-members.
Relating to reducing state government costs.
Directs Public Employees Retirement Board to establish member pension contribution account for certain employee contributions of member of Public Employees Retirement System. Directs board to apply amounts in account to pay costs of pension or other retirement benefits payable to member earned on or after January 1, 2019. Requires Public Employees Retirement Board and actuary to determine unfunded actuarial liability of Public Employees Retirement System by at least two methods, including and excluding side accounts. Requires certain public bodies to calculate surplus revenue for each budget period by adjusting revenues for previous budget period by population and inflation factors. Requires public bodies to remit surplus revenue to State Treasurer for use in reducing unfunded actuarial liability of Public Employees Retirement System. Applies only if unfunded actuarial liability is $1 billion or more. Requires Oregon Department of Administrative Services to reduce allotments to state agencies to reflect positions that have remained vacant for continuous period of six months. Limits amounts that state agency may spend for administrative costs in biennium beginning July 1, 2019, to 90 percent of amount state agency spent for administrative costs in biennium beginning July 1, 2017. Limits amount that Legislative Assembly may appropriate for compensation of personnel of state agency in each biennium to 101 percent of amount appropriated for compensation of personnel of state agency in preceding biennium. Provides that Governor’s budget may not include standard inflation factor for services and supplies. Requires legislative approval of collective bargaining agreements negotiated on behalf of state agencies. Requires public employee collective bargaining agreements to be negotiated every even year. Suspends cost-of-living increases, salary step increases, upward reclassifications, filling of vacant positions, creating new positions and out-of-state travel for certain state employees for current biennium and biennium beginning July 1, 2019. Creates Task Force on Education Cost Reduction. Declares emergency, effective on passage. Rationale: This bill is an attack on public employees. It would require legislative approval of collective bargaining agreements, suspend cost-of-living and other increases, and hurt state agency budgets.
Relating to state benefits for undocumented individuals.
Removes requirement that students who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents apply for official federal identification document to be eligible for exemption from paying nonresident tuition at public universities. Permits public universities, Oregon Health and Science University and community colleges to provide scholarships and other financial aid to students who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents. Permits Oregon Health and Science University and community colleges to exempt from paying nonresident tuition students who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents. Declares emergency, effective on passage.
Rationale: this protects Oregon tuition benefits for Dreamers, given the uncertainty of their status at the federal level.
Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to broaden definition of bills that raise revenue and thus require supermajority of both chambers.
Defines “raising revenue” to include increase in any tax or fee, including bills that modify or eliminate exemptions, credits, deductions or lower rates of taxation. Refers proposed amendment to people for their approval or rejection at next regular general election. Rationale: it is already incredibly difficult to raise revenue under the current system; this would make it unnecessarily burdensome to change fees, exemptions, etc.
History buffs can read up on our past endorsements.
In many cases, United Academics does not make a direct endorsement of a candidate for office. Instead, we created a survey that candidates can fill out to tell us how they view the issues that impact our membership.
You can read completed candidate surveys here.
Candidates for office can fill out the survey here. United Academics reserves the right to not post all the responses we receive.
Political Action Fund
United Academics works with our affiliate, AFT-Oregon, to handle political donations our members want to make. AFT-Oregon is a member-run union and the candidates and causes they support are selected by elected committee members, including United Academics' own Joe Lowndes.
What is the Political Action Fund?
AFT-Oregon’s Political Action Fund (PAF) is part of the political action arm of AFT-Oregon. It builds our union’s power and makes sure we have a strong voice to advocate for educators and educational professionals, and our communities.
PAF makes politics work for educators and working families by:
- Funding member outreach to lawmakers to educate them on important issues that affect our union and communities
- Helping to elect and re-elect lawmakers who support us
- Mobilizing and empowering members to build a strong voice for workers and education in Oregon
- Organizing community actions with allies to demand full funding for schools, community colleges, and universities, and fighting back against public policy that harms working Oregonians
- Passing pro-worker and pro-education legislation to protect our jobs and raise workplace standards
- Fighting anti-union legislation and ballot measures
Why Political Action?
As workers and educators, AFT-Oregon members fight for fair wages and benefits, respect on the job, and an education system that lifts up our whole community. Education policy and funding is decided by our legislators and on the ballot. This directly impacts what we can get at the bargaining table and the quality of our students’ education.
Anti-worker and anti-public education corporate forces have deep pockets to push their agendas on working Oregonians. If everyone steps up and contributes what they can, together we have the power to ensure a voice at the table.
How it works:
- PAF is entirely funded by voluntary contributions and is guided by a member-based, democratic process.
- In Oregon, you can receive a tax credit up to $50 for a single filer and $100 for a joint filer on your Oregon State Taxes.
If you are interested in contributing to the Political Action Fund, contact the office so we can get you a PAF card.