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Lawmakers narrowly approve bill to make it harder to fire school superintendents

File photo
The Oregon legislature is currently meeting in Salem.

Oregon lawmakers have narrowly approved a bill that would make it harder for school boards to fire superintendents.

Senate Bill 1521 would prohibit school boards from getting rid of a superintendent just because that superintendent refused to go against a state, federal or local law. Opponents of the bill said it takes control out of the hands of locally elected officials.

But supporters, including Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said school boards can’t require a superintendent to ignore a law.

“I can’t act in violation of the law just because I disagree with it," said Dembrow. "I can certainly protest. I can violate the law and be prepared to pay the consequences. But I certainly do not have the right to order someone who works for me to violate the law.”

The bill passed both the House and Senate with just the bare minimum of votes needed for approval. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

The legislation comes after several high-profile firings of school superintendents in Oregon, including at least one in a small eastern Oregon district who was dismissed after he refused his board's order to ignore the state's mask mandate.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018 and became News Director in March, 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”