Student Success Committee promises draft amendments this week
Monday, April 8, 2019
Joint Committee on Student Success Co-Chairs Sen. Arnie Roblan and Rep. Barbara Smith Warner revealed during the Thursday, April 4, committee hearing detailed plans for the Student Success Act.
The hearing covered both revenue and investment plans. The framework is the first concrete step toward an overarching investment in Oregon early learning and K-12 education. Leadership said that on Tuesday, April 9, we will get specific bill language to pore over.
The investment framework outlines three categories for a roughly $2 billion biennial investment: early learning, statewide initiatives and school improvement. The framework envisions an allocation of 50% for a School Improvement Fund, 30% for statewide initiatives and 20% for early learning.
The School Improvement Fund would be a noncompetitive grant program, similar to Measure 98, with districts able to make choices about how they might use the money. School Improvement Fund grants could be used for equity, student health and safety, expanded learning time, class size reduction, expanded leaning experiences, and many other options.
The framework detailed accountability measures as well, with the grants tied to measures such as on-time graduation rates, students who finish ninth grade with six credits, third-grade reading level achievement, attendance and possibly additional local goals. The committee plan represents a desire to maintain local control while still requiring some state accountability. Smith Warner, D-Portland, said she envisioned a feedback loop where districts helped shaped the monitoring.
“We want to help schools,” she said.
The $1 billion per year target investment has stayed consistent, but the specific revenue mechanisms, which will be part of the act, are still being worked out.
The committee’s revenue subcommittee Co-Chairs Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, and Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, presented three options for revenue, all varieties of a commercial activities tax. The roughly $2 billion in net revenue raised is consistent in all three models, but the number of exemptions and commensurate rates fluctuates. The committee discussed the merits of exempting certain portions of the economy, from types of labor to specific goods, such as petroleum or groceries.
The two main takeaways from the presentation seemed to be that the vast majority of Oregon’s 450,000+ businesses would pay $250 or less each year under the plan and that there was no consensus yet for which plan, if any, the committee anticipated endorsing to the full Legislature.
The next steps for the committee are clear. At Thursday’s meeting, Smith Warner and Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said that amendments will be available for this week’s Tuesday committee meeting. The onus is now on the legislators and staff to deliver. This is a lot of work, but given the recent momentum of the committee, there is every reason to believe the amendments, with specific language, will be delivered on time.
In the last edition of Legislative Highlights, we called for the committee to deliver specific information on the plans for the Student Success Act. They did, and for that they should be commended. That information represents more than a year of hard work.
Education advocates have been encouraged by the process so far, and we hope the progress toward better funding for Oregon education continues.