Student Success Act supercharges Measure 98 possibilities
Taft High School junior Brendan Welch takes care of one-year-old Zion Brandt during an early childhood education class. Lincoln County School District has child care centers in its four high schools that double as learning labs for students. Measure 98 has paid for an expanded early child hood education program and other career pathways. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
Measure 98 opened a funding spigot in 2017 for public schools thirsting for resources. The Student Success Act has turned up the flow, fully funding Measure 98 for the first time.
The new money is districts’ first taste of the act’s promised $1 billion-a-year investment in preK-12 public education.
“It’s such a different time in education,” said Roseburg High School Principal Jill Weber, who has been in education for 30 years. “I’ve never seen anything like this, that we’re able to really grow and to have a vision.”
The Student Success Act promises roughly $500 million a year in enrollment-based grants for schools to address equity and students’ social and emotional health. That money, though, requires a still-to-be-detailed application process and won’t be awarded until July.
The act will also invest about $500 million a year in early learning and statewide initiatives, including fully funding Measure 98. The Legislature appropriated $170 million for Measure 98 for 2019-21, the same as the previous biennium, and the act added $133 million. The first installment of that money is available now for career and technical education, college preparation and dropout prevention programs.
Although it’s too early for conclusive data, legislators repeatedly heard anecdotal Measure 98 success stories as they toured Oregon schools last year. The Student Success Act’s local decision-making and targeted spending goals were partially modeled on Measure 98. The act’s student achievement goals overlap Measure 98’s focus.
Roseburg Public Schools added career and technical education pathways in automotive and health care with its Measure 98 grant. The high school also created ninth grade success teams and hired a graduation coach. Roseburg has seen its ninth grade on-track rate, a key graduation indicator, climb from 80% two years ago to 90% last school year.
With this year’s additional Measure 98 money, the school is growing its college and career course offerings and adding 10th grade supports to reach those 10% not on track as well as students who are just barely making it. It is also adding to its summer learning and technology, such as a 3D virtual reality computer lab.
“It means that our kids have opportunities that they wouldn’t have had without this,” Weber said.
Measure 98 created what the Oregon Department of Education calls the High School Success fund. The Legislature funded Measure 98 for 2017-19 at just over half the measure’s intended $800 per high school student.
Education leaders enthusiastically embraced the opportunity.
In 2018-19, Measure 98 grantees hired the equivalent of 438 full-time jobs and 104 grantees established or expanded CTE programs, according to ODE. Districts have reported improvements in graduation rates, ninth grade on-track and attendance as they have poured the new money into areas such as updating infrastructure, increasing dual-credit college courses, training staff and hiring counselors.
North Douglas School District Superintendent Terry Bennett said his small district south of Eugene is looking to braid the Student Success Act and Measure 98 funding sources to maximize outcomes.
Measure 98 is narrowly focused on high school while the act calls for broader district efforts. Bennett wants to provide district-level training or staff positions through the act that can also meet Measure 98 goals. For instance, he is looking at hiring a health care professional who fits the act’s requirement for student health supports and who can also teach CTE-related classes.
Many schools are using the funds to add computers, upgrade machinery and improve classrooms and labs.
“School districts have been so poorly funded for decades that just catching up in terms of facilities, technology and equipment has been a total game-changer,” said Jennifer Pambrun, InterMountain Education Service District regional CTE coordinator.
Measure 98 required schools to use the money to “establish or expand” programs in its target areas. It cannot be used to replace existing spending on programs. But schools can use this biennium’s money to improve programs started after the law was enacted Dec. 8, 2016.
The Lincoln County School District used some of its Measure 98 funds to increase CTE options that match community needs, such as forestry. It added early childhood education and child care at two of its four high schools. The programs provide a lab for students studying early childhood development as well as much-needed child care for students, staff and community members.
Taft High School students in Lincoln City praise the CTE courses as some of their favorites, saying the hands-on and creative activities offer a needed change from some of their core classes.
Students say the pathways teach important skills even if they have no intention of working in those fields.
Senior Brooke Orendorff plans to be a real estate agent, with maybe a landscaping business on the side. She said making up games for the children in her early childhood education class stimulates the same kind of creative thinking she will need to stage homes and entice buyers.
Junior Andrew Jimenez is taking child care, forestry and culinary programs along with core language and math classes.
“It gives me ideas of how a work environment … would be like,” he said.
Taft can’t add more classes because all its rooms are scheduled, but Measure 98 has allowed the school to hire more classroom assistants so that the school can increase the number of students in its programs, said Majalise Tolan, secondary teaching and learning administrator. She oversees the district’s Measure 98 spending
When ODE told districts in the spring to plan for the possibility of nearly double the Measure 98 money, it seemed too good to be true, Tolan said. In July, the funding became reality.
“We still didn’t even believe it,” she said. “We’ve been in budget cuts for 20-some years, it feels like.”
With the extra money, Lincoln County will expand its programs to train teachers and child care workers. The district is also adding dropout prevention, summer school support, a welding program, field trips for college and career work, and new curriculum and making sure every student has a Chromebook.
Education advocacy group Stand for Children was the primary driver behind Measure 98 and has continued to fight for its funding.
Policy and Implementation Director Parasa Chanramy said they carried many of the Measure 98 lessons into discussions about creating the Student Success Act.
Chanramy said Measure 98 has been building schools’ capacity to help students succeed. She said the act’s dedicated revenue stream for Measure 98 funding provides some sense of sustainability.
Lake County School District Superintendent Will Cahill said there remains a concern about how long the economy will hold up and how the Legislature will react, but in the meantime, Measure 98 is doing good things for his district.
The south-central Oregon district reconditioned its welding shop and replaced outdated equipment. It built a small engine laboratory and added irrigation for its 160-acre agricultural lab. It also hired a career counselor to help with dropout prevention. With the new money, it will finish the shop, add agricultural equipment and continue paying the counselor.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA