Student Success Act would emphasize early learning, student health and equity programs
Sen. Arnie Roblan shows off a picture of a tea set created by a student who found an academic path thanks to career and technical education courses. During a news conference Thursday, Roblan said stories like this during the Joint Committee on Student Success’ tour of the state helped shape the committee’s legislative work. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
Legislative leaders unveiled their ideas Thursday for the long-awaited Student Success Act, an overarching Oregon education investment plan.
The act proposes sweeping investments in early learning, equity, safety and social emotional supports, with districts able to make choices about how they might use the money. The exact funding mechanism and amounts, which will be part of the act, are still being worked out.
Joint Committee on Student Success Co-Chairs Sen. Arnie Roblan and Rep. Barbara Smith Warner and Co-Vice Chair Rep. Greg Smith offered a synopsis of their thinking during a news conference Thursday afternoon. They will discuss their plan in more detail during a Thursday evening public hearing.
The committee has posted a draft of its education plans. According to the draft, legislation would allocate part of any new revenue to the State School Fund and divide the rest up among three accounts: 50% for a School Improvement Fund, 30% for statewide initiatives and 20% for early learning.
The joint committee’s revenue subcommittee has been considering business tax options that would raise between $1.3 billion and $2 billion in the next biennium. Smith Warner, D-Portland, said they expect to release a draft bill possibly next week.
During the news conference, Smith, R-Heppner, emphasized the significant economic benefits for businesses that will come with increased education spending.
A small portion of the new revenue would be used to keep the State School Fund at current service levels, according to Roblan, D-Coos Bay. The rest would be dedicated to addressing the needs the committee saw while touring the state last year. Roblan said that every member of the committee saw things that changed their perception of public education and the people who work in it.
School Improvement Fund grants would be targeted toward improving student achievement, with an emphasis on closing achievement gaps.
Districts would have to submit four-year plans that include a needs assessment and proposals to address students’ mental and behavioral health. Districts would have to commit to reviewing the academic return on investment of all district programs and using data for equity-based decision making. The requirements also include community engagement and teacher collaboration time.
The framework lays out four broad uses for School Improvement Fund grants:
- Expanding learning time, including summer programs and reducing time lost to assessments.
- Student health and safety programs, as well as adding health professionals and improving facilities.
- Class size reduction.
- Expanding learning experiences, including early literacy programs and broadening class options.
Grant money would be distributed using the same formula as the State School Fund but with double the weight for students in poverty.
The Oregon Department of Education would establish district targets tied to the grants for on-time graduation rates, students who finish ninth grade with six credits, third-grade reading level achievement, attendance and possibly additional local goals.
Roblan said improving these measures was the primary committee goal.
If a district doesn’t meet its targets, it would enter the ODE Student Success Team Coaching program for one year, where it would receive technical assistance from professionals with successful track records. Oregon’s highest needs districts would enter a four-year program and receive additional funding per student. Funding would be contingent on following recommendations.
Smith Warner said the committee wanted to maintain local control while still requiring some accountability. She envisioned a feedback loop in which districts helped shape the monitoring.
“We want to help schools,” she said.
The Student Success Teams would be required to present recommendations to the school boards.
School boards would be required to approve their districts’ plans and grant agreements in open meetings and receive annual reports on performance targets.
The statewide initiatives account would give priority to funding the Student Success Teams and ODE’s administrative costs for the bill. It could also offer money for full funding of Measure 98, universal free meals and a student reengagement program, as well as other statewide programs.
The early learning account would give priority to full funding of Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education and relief nurseries. It could also be used for an Early Childhood Equity Fund, for early childhood educator professional development and for other early learning programs.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA