School meal funding
What it does: The National School Lunch Program was established in 1964 to provide funding for schools to offer breakfast and lunch to students from households with income levels below a certain threshold. HB 2759 would establish a School Breakfast and Lunch Reimbursement Account to reimburse school districts for costs incurred by this program that are not otherwise paid for. HB 2760 would establish a Universal School Meals Account to reimburse school districts for USDA-reimbursable meals and meals not reimbursed by state, federal or other sources. It would prioritize the distribution of funds, helping to correct some of the unintended consequences of the 2017 legislation that implemented a statewide policy to prevent “lunch shaming.” HB 2761 would establish a school meal reimbursement account for districts providing meals to students who owe more than five meals and would only apply to costs accrued after July 1, 2019, also helping to correct the unintended consequences of the “lunch shaming” legislation. HB 2765 would require school districts to make breakfast available at school sites after the school day has started and allow up to 15 minutes of time spent consuming breakfast to count as instructional time when consumed in a classroom and instruction is provided.
What’s new: Public hearings were held for these bills Feb. 27.
What’s next: Work sessions are scheduled for Monday, April 8. All four bills are part of a larger policy push this session toward some sort of increase in funding for school nutrition. This policy was also recommended as part of the Joint Committee on Student Success investment framework. Legislators and advocates continue to work on the policy specifics, but some increased investment seems likely this session.
Promise for prisoners
What it does: The Oregon Promise is a state grant that covers the cost of tuition at Oregon community colleges for recent high school or GED graduates. Incarcerated students lose eligibility if they receive their credential before or during their custody period and are unable to enroll in college within the six-month time limitation. The Oregon Department of Corrections does not have the technology to provide an opportunity to participate in online college-level courses. HB 2910 would require the six-month period to enroll in the program for a person who is incarcerated or detained to begin after the period of incarceration or detention has ended. Seven students have received the Oregon Promise Grant while in custody this year.
What’s new: A public hearing was held on Wednesday, March 13, with universal support for the measure. Rep. Janeen Sollman said in the hearing: “Access to post-secondary programs translates to higher earnings and lower unemployment. Oregon workers boost the average earnings by 19% when they earn a community college career certificate. That’s an average of $5,000 annually for the worker. Not only are wages higher but unemployment drops from 6.5% with no college to 3.4% if a person gets a two-year certificate. These statistics are even more meaningful when the person is being released from incarceration and is working toward a positive new direction in their life.”
What’s next: A work session has been scheduled for Monday, April 8.
National assessment tests
What it does: The No Child Left Behind Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act led to Oregon students taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium summative assessments in mathematics and English language arts at the end of each school year from third grade through eighth grade and once in high school. HB 2736 and SB 157 would allow national assessments, such as the SAT and ACT, to replace Oregon’s statewide assessments for high school students.
What’s new: There was a public hearing on SB 157 on Monday, March 18. Cost estimates for implementing a new test for high schools and discontinuing the current test would be approximately $5.8 million to $6.8 million per biennium.
What’s next: A public hearing and possible work session for HB 2736 and a work session for SB 157 are both scheduled for Monday, April 8.