Dembrow: It's time for an up-or-down vote on tuition equity

By Representative Michael Dembrow of Portland, Oregon.

As you may have heard, last week I initiated a discharge petition to bring SB 742, the tuition equity bill, to the floor of the Oregon House for a debate and a vote. If a majority of House members sign the petition by the end of Tuesday, we’ll have that debate and vote within a few days.

Today, we are closer than we have ever been to passing Tuition Equity in Oregon. The bill passed the Senate in March, and we’re now just a few signatures away from getting to a public debate on the floor of the House, then on to an up-or-down vote. We already know that Governor Kitzhaber will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

SB 742 targets the high-performing children of undocumented immigrants, kids who were brought to this country at a young age and see themselves as nothing but Oregonians. They have turned themselves into academic success stories, young leaders in their communities. If you want to see a great example of the kind of student this bill would help, take a look at Mark Baker’s excellent profile of young Edith Gomez, “American Girl,” in Sunday’s issue of the Eugene Register-Guard.

There you’ll meet a remarkable young woman--a Churchill HS junior with a 3.9 GPA, a standout athlete, a class leader, an aspiring orthodontist, a young woman with the potential to be among the best our public schools have produced—but she will be priced out of an Oregon university if we don’t get this bill passed this year.

Edith’s story is in some ways a carbon copy of the experience of Mariana Zamboni, who came to testify at the hearing on SB 742 in the House a few weeks ago. Mariana was born and spent her earliest years in Guatemala, then was brought to the U.S. by her mother and like Edith became a star student in grade school and high school.

But there’s one big difference between Edith and Mariana: Mariana grew up in California, which has had tuition equity in place since the early 2000s. (Thirteen other states have passed similar legislation since Texas passed theirs in 2001.) Mariana was able to go to UCLA, then on to the Harvard School of Education. Just as she was about to graduate from UCLA, her family’s application for legal status finally came through (after sixteen years). She is now an educator in California, doing important, valuable work for that state.

After the hearing, Mariana confided that somewhere on her body she has a tattoo with the letters “AB 540” in it. Assembly Bill 540 is the bill that created tuition equity in California. That’s how much tuition equity means to her, how much she feels it has changed her life.

Think of the number of young Oregonians out there who are just waiting for a chance like that. Every year more and more of them find opportunity slipping farther away. Unless we pass SB 742 soon, we will see the potential of an entire generation lost to this state. It’s a tragedy, and it’s not necessary.

Believe me, the bill is worth it. You can read more about it in the op-ed that Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) and I wrote for Friday’s Oregonian.

2003 was the first session that Tuition Equity legislation was introduced in the Oregon Legislature. Eight years later, we are on the brink of getting this bill passed and joining the thirteen other states that have taken this important step for education access.

We are so close to victory for these students. If you agree that Oregon needs tuition equity now, then I urge you to contact your State Representative within the next 24 hours and urge him or her to sign the discharge petition. Let’s not make these students wait any longer.

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    Who still needs to sign?

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      not yet signed:

      Boone, Clem, Beyer, Gelser, Nathanson, Matthews, Nolan, Roblan, Schaufler & Barker.

      (double-check with them before going "grrrrr". be nice: it will get your further than going "grrrr".)

      plus Bob Jenson, the bill's co-sponsor

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    Thank you for all your work on this. Like Shemia above, I'd like a list of those who need to be persuaded to sign, especially Democrats. Last I heard, Greg Matthews (D-50) was still on the he still? Who else do we need to contact?

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    Michael, I'm so glad you're pushing on this. It will be a scandal if the House fails to at least vote on the measure.

    It will be a scandal if doesn't pass, actually, although that might be too much to hope for in the current political climate.

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    What's the update? Is it going to happen?

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    Damn, I really had hopes of it at least getting to the floor for a debate!

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