Estimate puts potential $3.5 billion price tag on Student Success Committee’s goals
Friday, December 14, 2018
Early learning is one of the most cost-effective education investments, Michael Griffith, a school finance researcher for the Education Commission of the States, told the Joint Interim Committee on Student Success on Thursday night. In March, Sen. Lew Frederick was among the committee’s members to tour a Springfield School District early learning program. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
The Joint Interim Committee on Student Success learned the potential bill for its education wish list Thursday night – over $3.5 billion.
“Please, don’t try to add it up,” said Doug Wilson, a Legislative Fiscal Office analyst, at a legislative hearing. With significant caveats the total could swing by hundreds of millions of dollars in either direction.
Committee members traveled the state much of the past year to find out what Oregonians want from their education system, and they distilled that down to three policy recommendation reports released in November. The LFO identified 54 recommendations and estimated their costs.
Committee Co-Chair Sen. Arnie Roblan said the committee is trying to figure out where Oregon wants to go with education and the best way to get there. He identified early learning, social and emotional supports for students and more class time as top priorities.
Roblan, D-Coos Bay, suggested creating an equity-minded, formula-based fund that awards money for school improvement plans. Schools could pick from state lists of education goals and measures of achievement.
Michael Griffith, a school finance researcher for the Education Commission of the States, said the state should also consider funding experts and consultants through the Oregon Department of Education to help districts, particularly smaller districts that don’t have the scale to hire specialists.
Griffith walked legislators through some of the pros and cons of funding sources outside the State School Fund formula. With categorical funding, policymakers can target funds to student groups or programs but such funds tend to focus on inputs rather than outcomes, he said.
Put money toward achievements and then let districts say how they will do it, Griffith recommended. He said a one-size-fits-all matrix for results would guarantee that some districts will fail.
LFO analyst Wilson followed Griffith at the hearing. He told legislators the estimates had to make some assumptions about legislators’ intentions. Many of the committee’s recommendations were not precise about the scale of programs. Other recommendations would require adding facilities and recruiting staff, costs the estimates did not consider. Also, the recommendations were priced independently, meaning impacts from new program interactions were not considered.
Wilson noted that the report used estimates from Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget and the Quality Education Model, a nonpartisan assessment of Oregon’s education needs, to calculate many costs. OSBA and education advocates around the state are pressing for the $10.7 billion recommended by the model for 2019-21.
Education advocates’ top priorities were among the biggest expenses:
$516 million to get to a 180-day school year.
$369.9 million to reduce class sizes.
$364 million to reach the recommended number of nurses and counselors in schools.
$275.7 million for tutoring and supports for struggling students.
$250.4 million to pay for support specialists in elementary schools.
$192.4 million for alternative programs for special needs and at-risk students.
$163 million to increase the number of students funded for special needs.
$131 million to phase in adding 10,000 spots to the Preschool Promise program.
The committee had been scheduled to present its bill proposals for the 2019 session but decided to wait until it had a better idea of its direction. Committee leaders also said the group’s long-awaited report would likely not come out until January.
Roblan said he expects the committee to continue into the 2019 session but with some new members. He also said he would expect it to create subcommittees for issues such as revenue reform, accountability, cost containment and policy.