By Abby Spegman

The Bulletin

Two local school board members picked to represent Central Oregon on the state level say addressing the rising cost of employee retirement benefits will be a priority in the coming year.

Cheri Helt, who has served on the Bend-La Pine School Board since 2010, was elected to a two-year term on the Oregon School Boards Association Board of Directors by local school board members.

Tim Carpenter, a member of the Redmond School Board, was appointed to a one-year term on OSBA’s Legislative Policy Committee after no candidate filed to run for the seat. He was elected to the Redmond board in 2015 after a previous stint on the board.

Their terms began Friday.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled last year the Legislature’s 2013 cuts to the Public Employees Retirement System were unconstitutional, wiping out much of the savings lawmakers were trying for and likely raising costs for state and local governments, including schools.

According to Helt, from 2008 to 2021, PERS increases will cost Bend-La Pine Schools $39.5 million and the Redmond district $13.2 million.

For districts across the state, she said, similar increases will mean cutting hundreds of teaching positions.

“I think what we’re doing to kids’ education is actually criminal, because we’re taking so many funds out of the classroom,” Helt said.

She previously served four years on OSBA’s Legislative Policy Committee. “It’s just not manageable,” she said.

More broadly, Helt said she will advocate for changes to how schools are funded, “so that (it’s) not always a struggle down to the last minute knowing what we’re going to get.”

Oregon relies primarily on income taxes to fund schools. In the fall, OSBA’s executive director asked school board members to weigh in on possible revenue reform.

OSBA represents boards governing K-12 public schools, public charter schools, education service districts, community colleges and the State Board of Education. It provides legislative advocacy, training and policy, legal and financial services.

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,